Published yesterday in the Union Leader is another article speculating as to the reasons for MaryEllen McGorry’s suspension. She is at the moment still receiving pay, though the article implies that she may be terminated from her position. Her secretary was also suspended the following week.
West principal’s paid suspension remains a mystery, fueling speculation
By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — A veteran school board member said that the paid suspension of Manchester High School West Principal MaryEllen McGorry signals that the allegations against her are serious and her termination is possible.
David Gelinas, the vice chairman of the Board of School Committee, said he does not know the reason for McGorry’s suspension, which took place last week.
“It would have to be serious enough or believable enough for a superintendent to suspend someone with pay,” Gelinas said. School board members are typically kept in the dark about such details because they can be asked to overrule a decision that goes against an employee, Gelinas said.
Last week, Superintendent Tom Brennan suspended McGorry from her $103,700-a-year job but allowed her paychecks to keep coming while an investigation takes place.
This week, Brennan announced that McGorry’s secretary, Denise Michael, was also suspended with pay pending an investigation. The manager of West secretaries, she works full-time for an hourly rate of $27.80.
Gelinas said a suspension would only happen after Brennan received a written allegation against a school employee. A suspension would involve serious allegations such as harming a student, a hostile work environment, abuse of an employee, misappropriations of funds or a criminal arrest, Gelinas said. Brennan has said the suspension had nothing to do with student safety. Manchester police Sgt. Todd Boucher said Wednesday that he has no record of McGorry being arrested by Manchester police.
Meanwhile, Brennan has hired Julie Moore and her Massachusetts firm Employment Practices Group to investigate the McGorry matter. The firm will be paid $250 an hour.
In an interview, Moore said she is a lawyer and a certified human resources professional, and her firm specializes in employment-related investigations. An investigation involves interviews with people, examination of evidence such as documents and an eventual interview with the accused, Moore said. An investigation will include a finding of fact and a “credibility determination” if facts are in dispute. She will make a recommendation if asked.
“In general, you never know how long an investigation is going to take,” Moore said. She’s seen them take as little as two days and as long as six months.
“I didn’t hire her. The superintendent thinks it should be done by someone outside. That’s what he chose,” Mayor Ted Gatsas said Wednesday. He said he can’t think of anyone in City Hall with the expertise in school-related employment to investigate.
“My guess is the superintendent felt it was serious enough he needed an outside person investigating,” Gelinas said. By bringing in an outside person, Brennan, who will likely have to decide on McGorry’s continued employment, avoids any charge of bias, Gelinas said.
Gelinas said Brennan has always suspended with pay. Doing so prevents a judge or arbitrator from ruling that an unpaid suspension was punishment enough for the wrongdoing, Gelinas said.
Ben Dick, president of the Manchester Education Association, would not comment at all on the suspension or answer a question if a teacher had made a complaint against McGorry.
A telephone message left for Brendan McCafferty, the president of the principals’ union and the principal at Hillside Middle School, was not returned.
School board involvement depends on what the investigation finds, Gelinas said. If an allegation is proven false, nothing comes of it. If an employee accepts Brennan’s decision, the school board will only get a synopsis from the superintendent.
If the employee disputes the superintendent’s decision, the school board will be asked to hold a formal hearing and make a decision. The employee decides whether to make the hearing public or not.
McGorry, a one-time prosecutor who changed her career, started as a substitute teacher at West in 2001. She was hired as an English teacher in 2001, assistant principal in July 2005, interim principal in 2007 and principal the following year.
Michael was hired to her present job in August 1993.