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Official says 'management issue,' but nothing 'inappropriate,' was reason for Manchester Central principal's resignation

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 15. 2014 10:56PM

MANCHESTER - A "management issue" led Manchester High School Central Principal Ronald Mailhot to retire abruptly in the middle of the school year, according to a school official Saturday.

"It had more to do with actions in his role in the management of the building, but it was not criminal activity," said the official, who didn't want to be identified. "This has nothing to do with any inappropriate behavior with any one student or staff."

The school official, who was familiar with the situation, said it was "a management issue that was resolved by his retiring."

Superintendent Debra Livingston confirmed Friday that Mailhot, who submitted his retirement to the district last week, is on paid leave until March 1, the day his retirement takes effect. He is currently being paid $104,566 annually, according to Livingston.

Mailhot will receive a payment of just over $41,000, plus insurance and other benefits due a principal with at least 15 years of service in the Queen City school district, she said.

The New Hampshire Union Leader filed a right-to-know request Thursday after school officials initially declined to provide financial details regarding Mailhot's pending departure and his work record.

Mayor Ted Gatsas, who serves as chairman of the Board of School Committee, referred questions about the retirement to Livingston, who would not elaborate on the reasons behind Mailhot's decision.

"I cannot comment on a personnel matter," Livingston said.

Messages left at Mailhot's home were not returned Friday and Saturday.

Two years ago, another city principal stopped working for the school district without any public explanation given. MaryEllen McGorry was suspended from her post as principal at Manchester High School West in 2011, eventually leaving after a lengthy investigation. No reason has ever been given for her departure.

Livingston, when asked whether there were any concerns among school administrators regarding Mailhot's job performance or conduct, said: "The Manchester School District cannot provide performance or discipline information."

Livingston said a rumor that Mailhot was escorted out of Central High School was "absolutely false."

"That never happened," said Livingston. "It's unfortunate that when someone announces their departure from a job like this, the stories that begin to circulate. The reasons behind someone retiring are personal and can be as simple as wanting to have more time with family members, or a sudden sickness in themselves or a loved one. But the reasons are their own. We appreciate everything Ron has done for the district over his long career here. We're sorry to lose him, but we are going to honor his request."

According to district records, Mailhot was hired on Sept. 3, 1991, as a French and Latin teacher at Central, a position he held until the end of the 2000-01 school year. He served as assistant principal at Central from July 1, 2001, until June 30, 2012, when he was made principal.

According to Livingston, Mailhot had unused accrued sick leave totaling $41,641.20 at the time of his retirement, which will be paid to him in a lump sum. She also said Mailhot will remain on the city health insurance plan until March 31, at which time he will be given the option to enroll in the retirees' insurance program at the full premium.

Livingston said Central Assistant Principal Joe O'Neil is serving as acting principal until an interim school head is chosen.

"We will be starting the search for a new principal immediately," said Livingston. "In the meantime, we will be naming an interim principal. It might be Joe, it might not. Right now, that hasn't been determined."

An interim principal is expected to be announced March 3.

Livingston said a memo went out to school district office staff on Thursday announcing Mailhot's decision to retire. She said school board members were notified the same day.

At-large school board member Kathy Staub called Mailhot's retirement sudden.

"I think the superintendent is going to manage his departure (in a way) that is in the best interests of the students, staff and the community," Staub said.

"We have to find a way to manage until we find a permanent replacement. We're going to focus on finding the best principal we can for Central High School," she said.

Ben Dick, president of the Manchester teachers union, said last week that Mailhot was easy to work with and gave a lot of his time to the district. Teachers seemed to get along with him, he said.

"Whenever something like this happens, there are a lot of stories that start going around," Dick said. "I'm not sure anyone beyond the administration and Ron know the reason why. All I know is teachers seemed to get along with him."

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