March 07. 2013 12:51AM

Absences of West High ex-principal unexplained

New Hampshire Union Leader

Former Manchester West Principal Mary Ellen McGorry speaks during a special naturalization ceremony at the high school last May. (UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER - MaryEllen McGorry, the West High School principal who resigned in January for undisclosed reasons, didn't work for 44 days the previous school year - 19 percent of the time that principals are required to be on the job.

Manchester school officials released the cumulative work days of McGorry for the past two years upon request of the New Hampshire Union Leader. However, school officials would not specify which days she was absent, nor would they discuss whether her absences had anything to do with an expensive investigation into McGorry and her subsequent resignation.

Under the terms of the union agreement governing principals, high school principals are required to work 226 days a year.

McGorry worked only 182 days during the 2011-12 school year, the last full year she worked for the district. She worked 233 days the previous year, seven days more than required.

"There were some legitimate reasons for her absences from school, and we did provide additional administrative support during that time frame," Superintendent Tom Brennan said this week.

West Side school board member John Avard said he remembers McGorry being off the job for health reasons, but he doesn't know the particulars or even what year that was.

"Regardless of the industry you're in, people have personnel issues that arise," Avard said. "There's various circumstances that do arise. As long as they're justifiable, we have to work with people."

McGorry was placed on paid leave shortly after the 2012-13 school year began. In January, she resigned the position she had held since 2007, although she will be paid until the end of the current school year. Her resignation followed a lengthy investigation, and school officials have refused to divulge the findings of the probe, citing personnel policies and law.

Her principal certification remains valid, according to the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Brennan said a principal can be out of work for various reasons, including illness and medical or family leave. School officials denied right-to-know requests by the New Hampshire Union Leader for the date of each day McGorry worked, the hours worked and reasons submitted when she didn't work.

"Providing this much detail would allow the public to discover sensitive personal and confidential information about these employees, such as their health status and private family matters," Brennan wrote in response to a Union Leader request.

"We believe that the public's interest to know his sensitive information does not override the privacy interest of the employees involved," he wrote.

McGorry's lawyer, Andru Volinsky, said he did not know about the absences.

"I probably wouldn't answer (why) if I knew," Volinsky said.

Brennan said school district policy calls for a replacement to step in if a building principal is going to be off the job for five days or more. A recent change to the policy requires the school board to be apprised of the absence, but Brennan said he's not sure if that provision was in effect last year.

Principals receive 1½ sick days for each month they are on the job. Under the terms of the principal union agreement, McGorry could not accumulate more than 15 days in a given year and 120 days throughout her time on the job.