Committee appoints former principal to lead school district while probe of Superintendent McMahon continues
Former Saugus High School Principal Michael Hashem has again agreed to lead the school district in a temporary capacity, this time while Superintendent Erin McMahon is on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged misconduct.
The Committee voted unanimously at last week’s meeting (Feb. 2) to approve Hashem’s appointment as acting superintendent for an indefinite period as McMahon remained on paid administrative leave.
Hashem, 55, is a Saugus native and a product of the town’s education system — a 1985 Saugus High School graduate. He has spent three decades of his professional career as a teacher and administrator in Saugus Public Schools. He started out as a high school math teacher in 1991. He was in his third year as principal of Saugus High School in 2016 when he offered to accept the role of interim superintendent and later acting superintendent back in March. He later returned to Saugus High School as principal in July of 2016,
After eight years as principal of Saugus High School, Hashem gave up his administrative job for the classroom as a mathematics teacher in June of 2021.
School Committee members lauded Hashem’s leadership, particularly for overseeing the school district’s move from the old Saugus High School to the new Saugus Middle-High School complex in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mike is and has always been a class act,” then-School Committee Chair Thomas Whittredge said of Hashem, when he announced his return to the classroom in 2021.
“I thank him for his eight years of leadership at the High School and as interim superintendent. Without him, the move from the old High School to the new complex would not have been a smooth one. He will be a valuable asset in his return to the classroom,” Whittredge said at the time.
Hashem was not present when the Committee conducted its meeting via “Zoom” video-conferencing last week.
Meanwhile, no new information has been revealed regarding the investigation into McMahon’s alleged misconduct.
In the written statement she provided to The Saugus Advocate shortly after she was put on leave, McMahon alluded to potential concerns about the School District’s fiscal management. There are unconfirmed reports from several town officials that the investigation is focusing on alleged misappropriation of funds.
“The district’s financial records are audited every year by independent CPAs who have never reported to me that the school department should change or adjust any practices,” McMahon said in her statement.
“While I have not yet been provided with any specific allegations made against me, any allegations of wrongdoing on my part are false. With the assistance of my attorneys, Michael Long and Sheilah McCarthy, I will zealously and transparently defend my unblemished professional reputation,” the superintendent said.
McMahon said she welcomed the “review and oversight by a qualified professional investigator.”
“I look forward to assisting in an unbiased review, which I hope will be done efficiently and expeditiously,” she said
She voluntarily stepped down on Jan. 17, pending the completion of the investigation.
“I look forward to returning soon to leading this district toward providing the best possible education for the children of Saugus,” she said.
McMahon is midway through the second year of a five-year plan to move the school district from the bottom 10 percent of academic performing schools to the top 10 percent, based on the district’s ranking against the state in performance on Math and Reading scores in the MCAS Exam..
In June of 2021, the School Committee voted 4-1 to approve a five-year contract for McMahon, with a starting salary of $196,000. Then School Committee member Arthur Grabowski was the lone member who opposed the five-year contract/ The superintendent stands to earn close to a million dollars over the life of the contract.
It marked the first time in the history of Saugus Public Schools that the School Committee had approved a five-year contract for the leader of the town’s public education system. It was also the first time that the School Committee had hired a woman superintendent