HARVARD -- Of 12 applicants, Dr. Michael Debrule of Boylston has been tapped to serve as the interim special education director for the Harvard School District. The School Committee unanimously agreed Monday to authorize Interim School Superintendent Joseph Connelly to negotiate a 110-day per diem contract with Debrule to serve out the balance of the school year.

As with Connelly, Debrule is otherwise retired but periodically works in interim school positions. The move to hire Debrule is still subject to the granting of a critical shortage wavier by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The committee authorized Connelly to negotiate a salary for Debrule up to $52,000. Connelly said current Special-Education Director Pam DeGregorio, who was hired in 2008 and retires in December, was budgeted for $106,000 for the current school year and will have been paid $55,000 for the first half of the school year and unused vacation time.

Connelly said he and DeGregorio screened applicants and narrowed the field to four retired special-education directors, each with several years of special-education experience in Massachusetts. Ultimately, Debrule was recommended to the School Committee.

Debrule last served as the interim school superintendent for the Berlin-Boylston School District and Union 60 School District for the 2011-2012 school year. Debrule brings four decades of experience with him as a teacher, special-education director and school superintendent, among other positions.

Connelly contemplated that Debrule's Harvard per diem contract will run for 110 workdays between Jan. 1 and June 30. Debrule will also spend three days in December shadowing DeGregorio to orient himself.

Debrule said he's participated in a half dozen special-education program reviews in the past. Harvard's special-education program faces its next coordinated review in 2014. "It's a huge undertaking. It's very, very labor intensive."

Debrule said he also brings experience in balancing parental and student rights with "diplomacy" against the needs and resources available in a district. "It's a balancing act."

Debrule said he's already had sit-down discussions with DeGregorio and Finance Director Lorraine Leonard. "I'm going to be a good learner and I'm going to be a good listener."

"My career is over," said Debrule. "I'm not interested in being the full-time special-education director, and certainly not a full-time superintendent of schools. "Interim is OK."

Debrule professed to having an "open door" policy for all. He hopes to remain "very approachable by anyone on any issue whatsoever."

"We've had success with interim personnel in the district," said School Committee member Keith Cheveralls in reference to Connelly's short term pull in Harvard.

Connelly said Debrule will help the district prepare for its in-depth audit of civil rights and special-education compliance issues next fall. The review occurs every 60 years.

"Normally this transition could be a problem," said Connelly. However, Debrule's "experience is going to be an advantage."

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