Santoro ... explained why she’s leaving Greater  Lowell TechSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.
Santoro ... explained why she's leaving Greater Lowell Tech

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our MyCapture site.

TYNGSBORO -- Greater Lowell Technical High School voted Thursday night to reimburse Dracut $17,000 for costs associated with holding a special town election in December to vote on whether to fund the school's building project.

The committee passed Dracut representative Paul Morin's motion to reimburse the town, 7-1, with Ray Boutin of Lowell opposed.

During the meeting, Superintendent-Director Mary Jo Santoro spoke publicly for the first time about her decision to end her 35-year career at Greater Lowell, receiving a standing ovation from the meeting room full of administrators.

Boutin said he was opposed to reimbursing Dracut because town officials made the decision to hold a special election for a Proposition 2 1/2 override, while the other district communities -- Lowell, Tyngsboro and Dunstable -- opted to fund the building project within their operating budgets.

"When the Board of Selectmen made the decision, they knew there was going to be a cost to it when they sent it out to the voters. It's a decision they made with their eyes open," Boutin said.

He mentioned concerns about potential cost-overruns with the project and suggested reimbursing the town if funds were left over after the project was completed.

Other committee members mentioned they felt the school was responsible for the town incurring the cost of the election and that it was fair to reimburse the town.

Santoro read the letter Chairman Victor Olson read at a special meeting of the committee Wednesday night, which said she decided not to seek a contract extension from the committee when her contract expires June 30 based on the committee voting to give her a pay raise in public session in January rather than going into executive session.

She also indicated over the past 13 months, she felt as though some committee members were undermining her experience and leadership.

Several members of the school administration attended the meeting and gave Santoro a standing ovation after Assistant Superintendent/Principal Robert Lussier shared a few remarks.

"No matter what was going on, students, kids were always first. Always, always, always without fail," he said.

He said Santoro had high expectations for members of her leadership team.

After the meeting, Santoro said she hasn't made a decision whether she is going to retire and take a part-time job or accept a new full-time position.

She declined to reveal her potential job opportunities.

She said dealing with the politics on the board over the past few months led to her decision to retire.

Santoro thanked the committee members who have supported her.

In other business, the committee voted unanimously to approve Erik Gitschier's motion to solicit a Request for Qualifications for legal services.

Gitschier said he was concerned about transportation costs incurred by the school district's attorneys traveling from their offices in Hingham up to Tyngsboro.

"If there are qualified lawyers in our area, I think we should be supporting the area that supports us," said Gitschier.

Long & DiPietro, LLP has been Greater Lowell's attorneys for about eight years, Santoro said. The firm typically charges $225 per hour.

Olson gave an update on the ongoing investigation by the school's attorney and Human Resource Department into the harassment claims Santoro made against Gitschier at a meeting in October.

Olson said Santoro's attorney and the School Committee's attorney proposed that Santoro and Gitschier enter into mediation.

Santoro agreed to mediation in December and Gitschier's attorney has not yet responded to the request, Olson said.

Follow Sarah Favot on Twitter @sarahfavot.