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Lowell School Committee to Vote on Terminating Embattled Superintendent

November 12, 2018

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LOWELL -- A November chill has replaced a humid summer in the almost four months since the Lowell School Committee voted to start the process of terminating Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui.

This week, the committee’s process may finally reach a conclusion.

The School Committee is scheduled to vote whether to terminate Kheflaoui during a meeting in City Council Chambers starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to an agenda posted on the district’s website.

The item comes after weeks of scheduling, canceling and rescheduling a hearing where the superintendent was expected to defend against the reasons for termination outlined by the School Committee in an Aug. 24 drafted during an executive session.

Neither Khelfaoui nor the School Committee have released the contents of this letter, however an executive session Wednesday following a public vote on Khelfaoui’s employment may change this.

The committee is slated to discuss “a review and potential release of past executive session minutes relative to the contemplated termination of Dr. Salah Khelfaoui, as well as general strategy in this matter,” during the executive session.

The most recent hearing, scheduled for the same day as the upcoming meeting, was canceled last week after Khelfaoui called the exercise a “sham” and announced he no longer wanted to pursue a hearing.

He said he believes the four School Committee members who voted to start the process on July 18 will oppose his continued employment in the district regardless of what is presented at the hearing. He also said he took issue with the City Solicitor’s handling of preparations for the hearing.

Mayor William Samaras and School Committee members Connie Martin, Jackie Doherty and Gerry Nutter voted to start the process of terminating Khelfaoui this summer. At the same meeting, members Robert Hoey Jr., Dominik Lay, and Andre Descoteaux spoke in support of the superintendent.

In lieu of a hearing, Khelfaoui’s representation delivered binders with a 35-page response and hundreds of pages of exhibits to the Mayor’s Office last week addressing the School Committee’s reasons for termination, according to the superintendent.

He said his attorney Michael Long will file a lawsuit following the superintendent’s formal termination, likely after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Khefaoui has been on paid administrative leave since the July 18 vote and earned over $60,000.

A 4-year contract for the Superintendent approved 5-2 by the School Committee in May 2017 increases Khelfaoui’s pay annually until it expires on June 30, 2020. According to the contract, Khelfaoui was expected to earn $199,225 from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

A section in the contract allows for Khelfaoui’s termination for “good cause,” described as “any ground that is put forth by the School Committee in good faith that is not arbitrary or irrelevant to the task of maintaining an efficient school system, and may include, but is not limited to, inefficiency, incompetence, insubordination, physical or mental incapacity ... and misconduct that detracts from the position of the superintendent as a community leader.”

In recent months, many School Committee meeting have focused on district budget troubles with an internal review finding a $2.48 million deficit, even with $2.2 million in additional non-budgeted revenue. Reception to this finding has been mixed, with the School Committee split along the same lines at the July 18 vote for Khelfaoui.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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