As the Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School Committee renegotiates Superintendent Edward Bouquillon’s new contract, selectmen in one of the district’s member towns have urged against renewing the agreement.
In a scathing letter sent earlier this month, the Carlisle Board of Selectmen said Bouquillon’s contract shouldn’t be renewed in light of a recent report that found he violated state procurement rules, and may have attempted to circumvent the law by splitting bids on certain contracts.
“Having reviewed the information available to us relating to the recent purchasing and financial management activities at the school that have come into question, we understand that a report has determined that several of such incidents were inappropriate and potentially illegal,” the May 10 letter states. “We find this highly disturbing behavior by the leader of one of our educational institutions.”
Peter Scavongelli, the Carlisle board’s chairman, said the letter was a culmination of several years of concerns regarding the school.
“It’s been a long road,” Scavongelli said. “The letter speaks for itself.”
The Minuteman School Committee’s chairwoman, Alice DeLuca, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
The regional school board is scheduled to discuss Bouquillon’s contract in a closed session Tuesday night, and may vote on it during its open meeting afterward.
Bouquillon was hired to lead the 650-student vocational school in 2007. His current three-year contract expires on June 30, and school board members have been negotiating with him for the past year.
Under his contract, Bouquillon receives an annual salary of $152,770 as well as a $6,000 annuity, and gets a housing benefit valued at $20,400 because he lives in a school-owned house and pays rent at lower than the appraised value.
The Minuteman district has 16 member communities — Acton, Arlington, Belmont, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Dover, Lancaster, Lexington, Lincoln, Needham, Stow, Sudbury, Wayland, and Weston — that send a varying number of students to the school on Marrett Road in Lexington.
Dan Dunn, chairman of the Arlington Board of Selectmen, said Bouquillon’s contract hasn’t come up in meetings with his colleagues.
Dunn said that while he hasn’t read the report about the procurement problems, Arlington officials have been pleased with Bouquillon’s overall stewardship of the school.
Arlington, which accounts for a third of the enrollment at Minuteman among member towns, hasn’t always felt heard by the district’s administrators, Dunn said, but Bouquillon has done a good job communicating with his town.
“He’s much more open to suggestions,” Dunn said. “He’s a much better communicator.”
Dunn said Arlington is much more focused on the rebuilding of the aging Minuteman facility, and he has seen no reason to question Bouquillon’s leadership.
Nothing he has heard, Dunn said, “makes me think he can’t lead and guide us through this big change that’s coming to Minuteman.”
He added that it is up to Minuteman’s school board to address the procurement issues and Bouquillon’s contract.
“I wouldn’t weigh into their affairs,” Dunn said.
But Mark Paolillo, the chairman of the Belmont Board of Selectmen, said the recent procurement violations are troubling.
“It doesn’t give us additional confidence in our superintendent,” Paolillo said.
Belmont has disagreed with elements of the new building project, but did not have concerns about the superintendent’s leadership of the school until the forensic audit was released, Paolillo said.
“I haven’t questioned his stewardship, or should I have had any reason to question his stewardship, until this came forward,” Paolillo said.
The report, which was completed in December and released last month by Minuteman’s school board, stated that the district faced a “significant challenge” in following its financial policies and procedures.
The auditors found several problems in the way the district awarded work to a marketing firm, and attempted to get an appraisal for the school property. Minuteman’s school board requested the audit after the district’s former business manager filed a complaint about financial oversight.
The audit found several occasions when invoices were submitted for just under $5,000, thereby avoiding a state requirement that governmental agencies seek three telephone bids to get the best price.
Last summer, Bouquillon also signed a $71,500 agreement with a private company to help increase enrollment and develop a marketing and communications office, but there was no evidence that he solicited bids from other vendors before agreeing to the arrangement, the report states.
The district made no payments on the contract.
In a joint statement with the Minuteman board that was released with the report, Bouquillon accepted responsibility for the problems highlighted in the audit and said that he had been disciplined. The nature of the discipline is a personnel matter and has not been detailed by either the school board or Bouquillon. The district has also changed its procurement procedures, and has offered employees additional training on the state law, officials have said.
The audit had delayed negotiations on Bouquillon’s contract, which began last summer, and comes at a delicate time for the district.
Member towns are meeting to discuss whether to change the 43-year-old regional agreement and allow towns to leave and new communities to enter. The district is also working with the state to develop plans for rebuilding the school.
Bouquillon has also applied for jobs in other school districts, and is among three finalists for the superintendent’s job at Greater Lowell Technical High School.
With so many issues confronting the district, Carlisle selectmen wrote in their letter, they believe it would be best to move forward “with a fresh start with a new leader.”
Lexington Selectman Hank Manz said being superintendent of a 16-member school district and keeping all the communities happy is a challenging job that Bouquillon has managed.
Manz said the Lexington selectmen haven’t discussed the procurement issues or Bouquillon’s contract. But the vocational school is a valuable asset for the region, he said.
“He’s been able to keep the place going,” Manz said of Bouquillon. “I’ll let the School Committee make the judgments.”