-By Joseph Domelowicz
For the Transcript
Winthrop Schools Director of Finance Kevin Meagher tendered his resignation to the School Committee on February 10 in an abrupt move that caught school committee members off guard.
“The Winthrop Public Schools lost a fine employee with Mr. Meagher’s resignation,” School Committee Chairwoman Mary Lou Osborne said this week.
“He was a valued employee, a person of integrity who has helped to financially shepherd the school system through several rounds of budget cuts during the last several years. He will be a difficult person to replace. I wish him well with his plans for the future.”
Meagher’s departure is the fourth resignation in the past year, following those of Superintendent Steve Jenkins and former School Committee members Pat Milano and Gus Martucci, which all followed controversial changes to the school department budget and operations, which were led by Council President Jeff Turco, who serves on both the Town Council and the School Committee as Town Council President.
According to Osborne, she only learned of Meagher’s intentions shortly before he read his letter of resignation aloud during the meeting on February 10.
In that letter, Meagher cited a number of accomplishments and successes in his six years as Director of Finance in the Winthrop Schools, but then pointed to the quote (above) from the February 10, 2011 issue of the Sun Transcript, in which Turco said that he was hoping to consolidate the two chief finance directors position in town – that of Meagher with that of Town Accountant Michael Bertino – during the next budget cycle.
Though he pointed out that he was under contract with the school district through June 30, 2012, Meagher nevertheless offered his immediate resignation, letting the school department off the hook for the last 17 plus months of his salary.
“Please be advised that under the duress of the these circumstances, I believe I have been left no choice but to resign my position, effective immediately,” said Meagher’s letter. “It has been a pleasure to have been offered the opportunity to serve the school system for nearly six years and I wish you and the community all my best with your future educational endeavors.”
Turco, who was talking about his own successes as council president in the February 10 story in the Sun-Transcript, said that he was sorry to see Meagher go, but that the departure would create a great opportunity for the town.
“First of all, I thank Kevin for his six years of service, but I also see this as an opportunity for the school department and the town to move forward with consolidation of the financial services of the town and the schools,” said Turco. “It will allow us, by bringing consolidation forward, to bring greater transparency to the school budget, which has been needed for a very long time.”
Though Meagher quoted an excerpt of Turco’s comments from the February 10 issue of the newspaper, it should be noted that Turco never mentioned either Meagher or Bertino in his interview with the newspaper.
Meagher also said in the letter that he’d “been provided apparently false assurances that the contemplated consolidations did not provide a threat to my immediate future. These assurances coming despite my attempts to make inquiry with regard to the intentions of potential consolidations.”
“I believe that my ability to effectively lead and to provide proper authority of fiscal oversight has been damaged by public statements by my superiors of their lack of support for me, as well as of the intent to consolidate my position,” he continued.
Osborne indicated that she is concerned about the future financial direction of the school department without Meagher’s leadership, but did not broach the subject of further consolidation of the financial operations of the town.
“I have concerns about efforts to consolidate the financial administrative positions of the School Dept and Town Hall. Each has different reporting mandates that must be met,” she said. “Certainly, I do look forward to the continued spirit of cooperation between the schools and the town in dealing with finances. The talented and dedicated people in these offices have always worked together for the betterment of the townspeople of Winthrop and will continue to do so, even in challenging financial times.”