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Two Lowell School Committee Members Want Vote to Fire Superintendent

July 13, 2018 GMT

LOWELL -- Superintendent of Schools Salah Khelfaoui, embroiled in a fiscal mess for the district, could be fired next week.

A motion on Wednesday’s School Committee agenda, filed by members Jackie Doherty and Connie Martin, would terminate his contract “for good cause.”

They also submitted a joint motion to place Khelfaoui on paid administrative leave.

The third and final joint motion dealing with the superintendent position would appoint Assistant Superintendent Jeannine Durkin as acting superintendent.

Ending his contract would require four votes on the seven-member committee. The third vote is expected to be Gerry Nutter. Mayor Bill Samaras, who has generally supported Khelfaoui, could be the crucial swing vote.

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.

Earlier this week, it was announced Khelfaoui was a finalist for the interim top schools job in Randolph. Then a couple days later, he withdrew his name for the post, saying he has received strong calls of support to stay and pointed to the unfilled leadership positions in the school district.

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.

When Khelfaoui was hired, he did not receive any votes from current School Committee members. The only current member on that committee was Martin, who voted for Lang.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.