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Lowell School Superintendent is Finalist for Interim Post in Randolph

July 9, 2018 GMT

LOWELL -- Superintendent of Schools Salah Khelfaoui, in the political crosshairs over a fiscal mess, is a finalist for the interim top schools job in Randolph.

The final three candidates for Randolph interim superintendent were announced Monday. Khelfaoui will go up against Portia Bonner, former superintendent of New Bedford and East Haven, Conn. public schools and Randolph Community Middle School Principal Thea Stovell for the job.

Bonner was a finalist for Lowell superintendent in 2008 but withdrew her application after accepting the New Bedford post. Chris Scott was hired in Lowell in 2008 and served as superintendent for three years.

Randolph School Committee Chair Ida Gordon said Khelfaoui and the other candidates will be interviewed at the committee’s meeting this Thursday evening, with the expectation of appointing the interim superintendent the following Thursday.

Gordon said the full-time interim will serve until a permanent superintendent is selected, possibly as long as a year. She said the School Committee has contracted with the New England School Development Council to recruit candidates, and she expects the process to begin this fall.

The interim superintendent will be welcome to apply for the permanent job, Gordon said.

Last month, rumors swirled that Khelfaoui was considering stepping down in Lowell. He told The Sun that the rumor was “absolutely false,” adding three times that the rumor was untrue “as of now.”

Speculation on Khelfaoui came as Gary Frisch, the department’s chief financial officer, heads to a similar position in Gloucester.

Tensions have also been mounting over the Lowell School Department’s extremely tight budget, with cuts to staffing -- particularly to the district’s library aides. Other positions across the system are also going unfilled. In total, the department faces a $2.5 million budget shortfall.

Khelfaoui, who lives in Chelmsford, was the superintendent of schools in Winchendon when he was hired by the Lowell School Committee in 2015. He received four votes, while in-district candidate Jay Lang received three votes. Lang is now the Chelmsford superintendent.

Last May, Khelfaoui received a four-year contract from the Lowell School Committee. Under the deal, Khelfaoui’s base pay increased to $189,625, retroactive to July 1, 2016, and increases by 2.5 percent in each of the next three years. By the time the contract expires on June 30, 2020, Khelfaoui’s salary would be $204,206. Ending the contract would require four votes on the seven-member committee.

In Randolph, School Superintendent Thomas Anderson left for New Bedford. Assistant Superintendent & Chief Academic Officer Angela Burke is serving as acting superintendent until an interim superintendent is appointed.

For more on this story read Tuesday’s Sun or click on http://www.lowellsun.com