Khelfaoui Settlement Talks Set for Wed. in Private

October 12, 2018

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LOWELL -- Next Wednesday the Lowell School Committee is expected to discuss strategies for “potential settlement negotiations” with Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui.

An agenda item posted for executive session reads: “To discuss strategy with respect to potential settlement negotiations regarding the School Committee’s Notice of Contemplated Termination of Dr. Salah Khelfaoui, open discussion of which may detrimentally affect the School Committee’s position with respect to potential litigation.” The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

This marks a shift from public action on Khelfaoui in recent weeks, which has centered on scheduling a hearing where the superintendent may respond to complaints outlined by the School Committee in an Aug. 24 letter. Neither party has made the contents of this letter public.

Mayor William Samaras said whether a hearing is ultimately held, the School Committee needs to have this discussion.

“One way or the other there’s going to be a settlement or decision where it’s going,” he said.

The committee has not received a settlement offer at this time, he said.

When contacted Thursday evening, Khelfaoui said he is still pursuing a hearing, possibly the morning of Oct. 30, though attorneys often seek multiple paths to resolution.

“Anytime there is an agreement, the attorney always looks for several options including amicable agreement,” he said.

During an interview with WCAP earlier this week Khelfaoui said his attorney, Michael Long, asked to sit down in a “civil and amicable” way and resolve this issue twice, once verbally a few weeks ago and in writing last week.

City Solicitor Christine O’Connor said mention of a settlement came up for the first time last week, and neither Khelfaoui nor his attorney requested a sitdown with the committee.

A private hearing for Khelfaoui was scheduled for this past Wednesday, but it was canceled when the superintendent’s attorney submitted a request for the hearing to be public Tuesday.

Samaras said the Open Meeting Law requires more notice before making this change, prompting a postponement. Khelfaoui said he had a different understanding of the law, though is not an expert.

“We’re willing to comply with his attorney’s request for a proper hearing,” Samaras said, adding it does not benefit the School Committee to delay the meeting.

He said a new hearing was proposed for Oct. 17, but Khelfaoui did not agree to the date. Two School Committee members are also out of town next week, he said. The committee is now considering an Oct. 30 date.

On July 18, the School Committee voted 4-3 to start the process of terminating Khelfaoui and place him on paid administrative leave.

In addition to the strategy discussion on Wednesday, the School Committee is also expected to address a budget review by Interim Superintendent of Finance Billie Jo Turner. A memo from Turner indicates the district currently faces a $2.4 million deficit.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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