Superintendent Erin McMahon is on paid administrative leave pending results of probe into allegations of misconduct
By Mark E. Vogler
Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Erin McMahon went on paid administrative leave last week as the School Department launched an investigation into unspecified allegations of misconduct.
There were reports earlier in the week – which officials refused to comment on – that McMahon had been relieved of her duties. It wasn’t until last Thursday (Jan. 19) night’s meeting – after the committee members emerged from an Executive Session – that Committee Chair Vincent Serino read a brief statement confirming that McMahon stepped aside indefinitely and that some kind of investigation was underway. The agenda posted for the Jan. 19 meeting listed an Executive Session for a) contract negotiations and b) to discuss strategy with respect to pending litigation. But there was no mention of the superintendent on the agenda.
“After consultation with legal counsel, the Saugus School Committee has accepted Superintendent Erin McMahon’s agreed upon paid administrative leave,” Serino said.
“This is a personal matter, and as such will be handled with appropriate due diligence, confidentiality and professionalism. Actions taken today are not to be considered disciplinary. The committee will have no further comment until the results of the investigation are done,” he said.
The committee then moved on to other business during a meeting that lasted close to 16 minutes. McMahon never addressed the meeting, but issued a statement later, saying that she welcomed the investigation and expects to be exonerated.
McMahon vows to defend her reputation
In the written statement she provided to The Saugus Advocate, 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.
Bill Palmerini, president of the Saugus Educators’ Association, expressed concerns that faculty members throughout the school district had not been briefed about the situation. “We have not received any notification as a staff of who would be in charge,” Palmerini said.
“So, would you be telling us that or would we be getting some type of communication regarding this? Because to have a ship without a captain is very concerning,” he said.
Serino said there would be no notification to faculty about any change in leadership on a temporary basis. “We think the district is running exactly like it was before,” Serino said.
“We have administration leadership, all the way down to the educators. I think we’re in a good spot. More to come on everything. I appreciate your patience,” he said.
Palmerini wanted to know if teachers would be receiving any notification to let them know about the superintendent’s being on administrative leave. He mentioned that many of the association’s 234 members were not in the audience and, therefore, weren’t aware of the situation.
Serino said faculty would be advised of the superintendent’s status.
In June of 2021, the School Committee unanimously approved a five-year contract for McMahon, with a starting salary of $196,000. 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.
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.
Superintendent’s Jan. 19 statement
As Superintendent, I am deeply committed to improving the lives of the students and families of Saugus. I’ve been thrilled with the progress the educators of Saugus have made toward the shared goals of closing our achievement gaps, reaching all learners, and doing the work educators do every day to change lives for the better. That is our mission.
As Superintendent, I expect the School Committee to take an active and engaged interest in my management of the district, and I expect them to bring me any questions or concerns. 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.
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.
I welcome 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.
On Tuesday, January 17, 2023, I voluntarily stepped back from my duties as Superintendent, pending the completion of the investigation and am on paid administrative leave.
I look forward to returning soon to leading this district toward providing the best possible education for the children of Saugus.
I will make no further public comment at this time.