Instability at Top Hurts Lowell Schools
On July 18, a motion was sought by School Committee members Jacqueline Doherty and Connie Martin to place Superintendent of Schools Salah Khelfaoui on paid administrative leave. The motion passed with a vote of 4 to 3. At the meeting, in the middle of summer vacation, a dozen citizens came out to speak in favor of retaining the Superintendent. Four School Committee members spoke against him, and it became clear that they had communicated beforehand and entered into the meeting with minds made up. It was also clear that the three other members had no knowledge of what would be considered “good cause” for the termination.
More than a month after the vote and just a few days before the start of the new school year, we are no closer to understanding the reasoning behind Superintendent Khelfaoui’s removal from his position.
Given the recent revelations about the food service fund discrepancies and the resulting budget crisis, we, the members of Lowell Education Justice Alliance, have a few concerns moving into the school year: 1) We are concerned that entering the new school year with interim people in key positions has disrupted the start of the school year; 2) We are concerned that the current situation and instability in leadership will lead to hasty hiring without proper vetting and public input. the positions of superintendent, chief financial officer, and director of human resources are too important to rush; 3) We are concerned that this latest information regarding the food program will be used to justify the superintendent’s removal, even though it came to light after the School Committee put the motion on the agenda to remove him and it is still unclear who is at fault; and 4) We believe that there should be further investigation into Aramark’s role and responsibility in this situation.
Additionally, we find it outrageous that the state, who for years has failed to reimburse our district for charter school payouts, to the tune of $19 million this past year alone, is now “working” with us on a payback plan to the food service fund. Perhaps we should refuse to pay until we are fully reimbursed for charter schools and other unfunded mandates from the state. I wonder what our state representatives would have to say about that? They are largely missing in action when it comes to supporting our schools and students.
Our community has a lot of work to do to create the best schools possible for our children. The chronic instability of our LPS leadership does not help this process.