MANCHESTER — Manchester Central High School Principal Ronald Mailhot is no longer on the job, after his abrupt departure from the school late last week.
Superintendent Debra Livingston confirmed that Mailhot retired effective March 1.
"It was a surprise," she said of his retirement.
She said Mailhot was a 23-year employee and that the district is "very grateful for the time he was able to be here with us."
School district officials said little else about the veteran educator's departure. Mailhot worked his way up from a language teacher to lead a high school that is the largest in the city and one of the oldest in the state.
The retirement was submitted to the district in the last few days, said Mayor Ted Gatsas, who serves as chairman of the Board of School Committee.
Livingston said nobody had yet been appointed to serve as interim principal.
"That's something we're working on," she said.
On Thursday, a memo went to central office staff saying Mailhot had retired, according to a source involved with the schools.
An interim principal is expected to be named March 3, the source said. No one knows what happened, the source said.
"When they keep the lid on things, everyone keeps throwing out their pet theory," the person said.
Mailhot, who began his career as a language educator, was an assistant principal at Central until appointed the interim principal in 2011, when former Principal John Rist retired. He took the job full-time in May 2012.
He is the latest city principal to abruptly leave office. MaryEllen McGorry was suspended from her position as principal at Manchester High School West in 2011 and eventually departed after a lengthy investigation. No reason has ever been given for her departure.
"He (Mailhot) was a quiet presence at the school and always had the best interest of the kids at heart," said Mary Ellen Stergiou, a Central parent of four and member of the parents music program.
She said Central needs a strong hand, and she's not sure Mailhot was formidable enough for the job.
But Mailhot could be direct. During last year's graduation, he commended teachers for their work in crowded classrooms while Mayor Gatsas, whom many faulted for the crowding, sat behind him.
"You had large class sizes to contend with and a far cry from optimal circumstances," Mailhot said to teachers. "But you prevailed. And just look at these awesome graduates that were produced."
Ben Dick, president of the Manchester teachers' union, said Mailhot was easy to work with and gave a lot of himself to the district. He called him forthright and courteous. Teachers seemed to get along with him, he said.
"Let's put it this way, I wasn't having schoolwide meetings over Ron Mailhot," Dick said.