School Committee Makes ‘Proactive’ Strides Amid NRT Woes: Two Buses Added, Safety Concerns Addressed

Three weeks into the year, the Haverhill School Committee continues to make “proactive” strides in the wake of transportation woes that marred the Aug. 27 opening of school. At Thursday night’s meeting, school officials confirmed transportation provider NRT’s CEO John McCarthy will soon add two buses to the Haverhill Public Schools’ fleet in an effort to mitigate delays that continue to plague students across the district. Committee members agreed to allocate approximately $98,000 in surplus funds for the buses, which Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling said is a step in the right direction. “He’s made shifts within the district to allow some of the buses to get to where they need to be.

Haverhill School Committee on Marotta: Budget Well Done, Communication Skills Need Work

Haverhill Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Marotta had her first-year performance review Thursday night, with several School Committee members and Mayor James J. Fiorentini urging her to improve her communication skills with both the community and news media. Rated on rubric that went from ‘unsatisfactory’ to ‘exemplary,’ Marotta was declared ‘proficient’ by the majority of Committee members in the areas of professional culture and instructional leadership. Member Sven A. Amirian put Marotta’s last 12 months into perspective, arguing that the former Salem Public Schools employee “inherited a largely dysfunctional school district and weathered the storm admirably” since taking over for James F. Scully in July 2018. Marotta’s attention to detail on the past year’s budget and attendance numbers were applauded by the Committee, including member Richard J. Rosa. By using data to drive her decision making, Marotta has illustrated her “commitment to high standards.”

“Dr. Marotta has made great strides in making all students and families feel welcome in Haverhill Public Schools.

Haverhill Teachers, School Committee Reach Tentative Pact; Raises, Mentors Top Items

Haverhill teachers and School Committee reached a tentative agreement last night on a new three-year contract. After a nearly five-hour marathon session, members of the Haverhill Education Association and School Committee negotiators came to an agreement calling for salary increases during each year, tuition reimbursement for the first time, improved mentorship and continuing talks on equity between schools. “Members will see their membership and advocacy made these gains. They should take credit for the contract,” says union President Anthony J. Parolisi. Neither side disclosed the amounts of annual salary raises, but Parolisi said, “there are no leading zeroes.” Full details of the pact won’t be released until a formal memorandum of understanding is crafted.

Whittier Tech Receives $409K Skills Capital Grant to Expand HVAC Program

Haverhill’s Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School is set to reap the benefits of the Baker-Polito Administration’s latest skills capital grant program to expand its Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration course, the school said Tuesday. Receiving $409,225 from the state, Whittier intends to build what they call a “state-of-the-art” lab stocked with HVAC and refrigeration equipment used to work on residential and commercial units. Students in that program will receive hands-on training by working inside the classroom and outside Whittier Tech on things like gas and oil burners, ice machines and air conditioning units, instructor Rich Gonsalves said. "This Skills Capital Grant will give students the opportunity to work on the latest energy efficient HVAC equipment,” HVAC Instructor Rich Gonsalves said. “With the addition of new equipment, we will be able to educate our students on the newest technology to increase the number of qualified technicians in our region.”

Construction on the new lab is set to begin in October and should be completed by the end of the school year.

Pentucket Regional School System Appoints Three New Elementary School Assistant Principals

School’s in session for three new elementary school assistant principals in the Pentucket Regional School district, Superintendent Justin Bartholomew said Monday. In an effort to restructure the elementary schools that serve Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury, Bartholomew decided to introduce 19-year physical education and wellness teacher Jim Day as Dr. Elmer S. Bagnall Elementary School’s first assistant principal, among others. Day most recently served as Bagnall’s school support coordinator. Stephanie Dembro, a former third grade teacher in Melrose, is the new assistant principal at both the Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir and Helen R. Donaghue Elementary Schools in Merrimac. Katie Provost has been named assistant principal at the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School in West Newbury.

Fiorentini, Marotta Ride Haverhill NRT Bus, Deem 15-Minute Afternoon Delay ‘Unacceptable’

Kindergarten students from Bradford Elementary had two very special visitors along for the bus ride home on Wednesday: Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Superintendent Margaret Marotta, who joined the children to audit the route amid concerns over safety and excessive delays. Reporting back to families via email, Marotta said the situation is improving but is “clearly not yet satisfactory.”

According to Marotta—who admitted the school district only became aware of route changes made by new transportation provider NRT’s computer software Transfinder 48 hours before Aug. 27’s first day of school—the bus issues remain a work in progress. She continues to work with NRT’s CEO John McCarthy and his team, she said, to revise routes and “gather data” so the School Committee can assess the need for additional buses. Fiorentini opened up about his experience riding the bus on social media, telling residents that he hopped aboard at the suggestion of a parent, and to “see if these problems were as bad as people say.” According to the mayor?

Updated: Haverhill School Admin. Orders Outspoken Staffer Off the Property; Marotta Responds

The Haverhill school administrator who spoke out against what he believed was a lack of respect was ordered today to return any city property and not step on school property—a step school leadership says is “standard procedure and policy.”

Chief Academic Officer Darshan Thakkar, who expected his last day to be a week from tomorrow, says he discovered access to his school log-ins was taken away early this morning. After being called to a meeting in City Hall, he says, he was ordered to return his laptop, iPad and keys and banned from school property. “Given what has happened in the last 24 hours, we feel it is best that you aren’t around,” says Thakkar, quoting schools’ Human Resources Director John O’Connor and Human Resources Coordinator Sandra McArthur. In a response this afternoon, the School Department says it followed standard procedures when dealing with a “disgruntled employee,” especially one with access to student information. “We became aware last night through various media outlets that Dr. Thakkar was a disgruntled employee.

Haverhill Schools’ Academic Officer to Take Framingham Job Out of ‘Self-Respect’

Haverhill’s third ranking school administrator is leaving the system for a job in Framingham Public Schools. Chief Academic Officer Darshan Thakkar of Burlington will become Framingham’s assistant director of secondary education Sept. 16. He says the commute is about the same and he will take a cut in pay, but he is moving on out of self-respect. “For the last year, with all the changes, it became quite apparent since the beginning of last year, more and more my contributions were no longer welcome, my expertise wasn’t valued and my presence wasn’t desired,” Thakkar told WHAV.