Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction. Eric Buckley and Todd Bucey were members of the screening committee that evaluated candidates for Assistant Superintendent.
Peabody native Cara Murtagh is slated to become the school district's new Assistant Superintendent.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Herb Levine made the announcement Friday, saying the promotion was a joint selection between himself and incoming schools chief Joe Mastrocola. The position is one of just a few that requires approval from the School Committee and Levine plans to seek that approval at the June 26 committee meeting.
Murtagh, 37, has spent the past eight years as an elementary school principal -- a short stint at the before returning to the in 2005. She's spent her entire teaching career in Peabody, in fact, since graduating from Emmanuel College in 1997.
Murtagh taught at for a year before spending the next six as a classroom teacher at the .
Levine, in an interview Friday, spoke highly of Murtagh as an effective leader and someone well qualified for the job.
As the assistant principal at the , Murtagh served on the School Building Committee while the new school was built several years ago, secured funding and teamed with parents and the community to build a school playground, under her watch the Carroll was commended by state education officials for closing the gap on math in 2010 and Murtagh also helped implement new math and literacy programs.
Murtagh has also participated in a number of curriculum committees over the years as well as groups undertaking administrator searches.
“I think [she's] a great choice for the city. She’s a Peabodyite through and through,” Levine said, noting Murtagh’s father was also a principal. Civic service does run in her family -- uncle Fred Murtagh and aunt Mary Waselchuk are both former Peabody city councilors.
Levine said Murtagh is committed and will be in Peabody for the long haul. He added that she is intending on pursuing her doctorate; her superintendent/assistant superintendent certification is pending.
"Ms. Murtagh has a skill set that suits the Peabody Public Schools well," said Mastrocola. "She is student-centered, organized and versed in current professional development best practice and has the curriculum background needed to forward teaching and learning in the district."
"Her experience working in the city in various roles for a number of years is a plus. I anticipate she will be a valued member of the central office team," added Mastrocola, who will return to Peabody July 1.
The position of Assistant Superintendent, which was for the coming year, will focus on curriculum and instruction and comes with a salary of $110,000.
The selection of Murtagh also comes on the heels of Levine convincing the School Committee to add an assistant principal for the to the new budget. He argued that the student population was too large for just one administrator.
Levine said that the plan forward for Peabody's largest elementary school is to hire an interim principal for at least a year while a search begins for a permanent hire. He said he and Mastrocola agree that there's not enough time now to do a full-out search and bring a long-term hire on board before school starts again in September.
He said both that job and the assistant principal position have already been advertised. Given the fact that the will be getting two full-time administrators next year, Levine said, he just sees positives for the school community.
"Peabody will go through a little bit of growing pains next year, but that’s a good thing,” Levine said, referring to the handful of administrative changes within the district.
Levine said the assistant superintendent job was advertised three to four weeks ago after he received approval from the School Committee to advertise for anticipated openings next year.
Twenty candidates initially applied, a screening committee narrowed it down to 10 and then three finalists, all of whom were impressive candidates, Levine said. The committee included Assistant Principal Eric Buckley and Todd Bucey. Levine and Mastrocola both conducted the final interviews.
Levine said there were a total of five internal candidates and 15 outside the district, representing a broad range of experience and several sitting principals who wanted to move into central administration.