The Salem School Committee voted Tuesday night to offer a three-year contract to Mary Kate Carbone - currently the chief academic officer at Triton Regional School District - for the position of assistant superintendent, but only after a heated debate that saw at least three amendments to the original offer get shot down by majority vote.
Carbone who accepted the offer, will be paid no more than $110,000 this fiscal year, $147,5000 next year, and $150,000 in the third year.
The first year is prorated based on $145,000 for the fiscal year, meaning that if she began in October as anticipated - during the current fiscal year that began on July 1 - she would receive $110,000, and the city will pay less if the deal takes effect later.
Getting her out of her current position at the tri-town district made up of Newbury, Rowley and Salisbury is what will determine when she can begin full-time.
"That'll be tricky," Salem Superintendent Stephen Russell said.
The trickiest part to this point might have been getting a vote to offer her the position in the first place.
The final vote on the contract was 5 to 2. Committee members James Fleming and Janet Crane voted against it.
Contention arose over the amount of the contract and the selection process, which narrowed the field of candidates from eight down to two, but with only Carbone coming before the School Committee for an interview.
The committee that interviewed the original eight candidates was made up of teachers, administrators, and a parent representative, but Cane was the only school board member to serve.
Fleming led the charge against the contract offer, citing a flawed selection process.
"This position is the School Committee's choice," Fleming said. "I think that this has gotten by us."
Fleming took issue with the fact that having only one candidate interview with the board effectively boils down to a choice of her or no one. Russell said he would have reopened the position for applications.
"We're not voting on who we deem to be the better choice, we're voting on someone else's choice," Fleming said. "Be it the mayor, be it the superintendent, be it anybody else...the selection process has been flawed."
Most acknowledged Fleming's concern regarding the selection process, but supported the recommendation. They made it clear that Carbone's qualifications were not a sticking point. Her career in education spans more than two decades, including stints as a middle and high school principal in Providence and more than four years working for the Masssachusetts Department of Education.
"I am a little disconcerted that we didn't get to meet the other candidate," said committee member Nate Bryant. "However I do value our superintendent's comments and suggestions on why he chose this one."
One of the big fears concerning the amount Carbone's contract would pay is the domino effect it could have on the current teacher's union negotiations.
"The money issue is a very serious issue," committee member Brendan Walsh said. "I do have concerns, especially with some of our principals, who are in crucial situations, and we're going to have to find some way to compensate them as well."
"I have no opposition to her candidacy...but I cannot vote for the salary that is being proposed," Crane said.
The room remained divided on the issue after Russell revealed that Carbone makes about $130,000 in her current position.
"The numbers [proposed] are what we are going to need to bring Miss Carbone here if we as a School Committee are interested in doing so," said Mayor Kim Driscoll, chair of the school board. "The options are clear, this or we go back out. And it's our choice on what we think is best for our school district."
Based on prior discussions, Russell said he does not expect it to take Carbone more than a few days to accept or decline the offer. Carbone is a resident of Beverly.
Steven O'Brien retired last month after two years as the assistant superintendent in Salem and nearly four decades in education.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.