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Mercury discussion is postponed again.

Byline: Jacqueline Reis

WORCESTER - Anyone looking for a thorough airing of how the mercury spill at Grafton Street School was reported and where a breach in protocol happened shouldn't hold his breath waiting for the School Committee to provide answers.

Two weeks ago, the committee postponed an item that asked for a timeline of the administration's response to the Sept. 21 spill, which didn't bring a hazardous material response until Sept. 22. Superintendent Melinda J. Boone has written there was a breach in protocol but has not said where the break was or who in central administration received the first report of the spill.

Tonight, the committee postponed the discussion again at the request of committee member Dianna L. Biancheria.

"Are we ever going to take it up?" asked committee member Mary J. Mullaney.

"Good question," responded Mayor Joseph C. O'Brien, adding that general practice seemed to be that an item would be held if someone so requested. No one objected.

Ms. Biancheria said in an interview afterward that she needed more time to make sure her questions reflect the concerns of parents at the school.

At the end of the night, the committee voted 5-2 to give Chief Academic Officer Jeffrey J. Mulqueen a three-year contract extension. He lives in Connecticut and will have to move to Worcester by July 1. He will not receive a higher salary, he said.

His existing contract expires July 1 but it says discussions on a new contract could start any time after June 30 of this year.

The two dissenters on his contract were Ms. Biancheria and Tracy O'Connell Novick, who were elected after he signed his first contract, which started Sept. 14, 2009.

"A year is too soon to give someone an additional three years," Ms. Biancheria said. "Moving to Worcester doesn't make you a community person, and I'm looking for someone who can build relationships ... and unfortunately, I see a lack of that."

Ms. Novick had concerns about how Mr. Mulqueen relates to community members, teachers, parents and the press and said that while he has improved, she doesn't "think he's there yet."

Also last night, the School Committee had a visitor from the past: John E. Durkin, who retired as superintendent 17 years ago and for whom the school district's central administration building is named. He joined Beverly Stanick of Sharfmans Jewelers, who announced that Sharfmans 25th annual Worcester ornament features the Dr. John E. Durkin Administration Building, formerly Classical High School.

Also last night, the committee accepted the framework that the Local Partnership Group developed for any innovation school proposals in Worcester.

The district will accept such proposals until Dec. 15.

Innovation schools, which are designed to have charter-like autonomy while remaining part of a traditional school district, were part of the state education reform law signed this year.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 19, 2010
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