"Limbo” is the best word to describe the position of permanent school superintendent since Peter Horoschak was abruptly informed, without explanation, that he was being placed on administrative leave and told to keep off school property on Sept. 14.
Technically, Horoschak is superintendent until July 2013, when his contract expires. In the meantime, director of special services Dr. Richard D’Agostino has been named acting superintendent by the School Committee. He’s moved into Horoschak’s former office and was given a pay raise by the committee. At this point, it would appear D’Agostino could be acting superintendent indefinitely.
“We still have a superintendent under contract,” Rosemary Healey, legal counsel and human service director for the department, said Thursday. She said that, until that changes, which would happen when the contract expires or an agreement is reached with Horoschak, the department would not be advertising to fill the job. Horoschak is being paid $165,225.
“We can’t move forward until it is rectified,” Bethany Furtado, chair of the committee, said Thursday. She called the situation “a work in progress,” adding that the decision of the committee is not to comment.
Healey would not comment on the status of an agreement with Horoschak or, in fact, whether that is something being worked on. She said she was leaving comment to Jeff Sowa, the attorney Horoschak has retained, because Horoschak is his client.
Reached last Wednesday, Sowa said the parties have been in communication, but nothing is happening, or scheduled to happen, at this time. Horoschak has not brought suit against the department, although Sowa left the possibility open.
“That remains on the table,” he said.
Sowa said the situation with Horoschak is similar, in many respects, to the case he handled for Stephen Chrabaszcz, who was fired as principal of Johnston High School without explanation. In that case, the department’s newly appointed superintendent placed Chrabaszcz on leave, although his contract did not expire for at least another academic year. Chrabaszcz, who is now principal of Toll Gate High, sued on grounds that the contract had been broken and that the unexplained action injured his reputation. A jury ruled in Chrabaszcz’s favor, awarding him about $200,000 in pay.
While Horoschak’s contract runs through July of next year, Sowa sees parallels in that Horoschak was not given a written evaluation of his performance or an explanation for placing him on leave.
Furtado feels the system is running well despite the uncertainty raised by Horoschak’s departure.
“Everything is moving in a foreword direction,” she said.
She said that the opening of schools went well.
“Educating children is our priority,” she said.
Furtado said the single exception was the committee’s decision to change the mentor aspect of the graduation by proficiency program. Because of a state law requiring state and federal background checks of mentors that would have required spending about $25,000 to do backgrounds on over 700 mentors, seniors were instructed to only contact mentors by phone or email. A change in the law is expected to specifically exempt the senior program.
Asked about D’Agostino’s performance, Furtado said, “I believe Richard is doing a fine job. Everyone is working well together.”