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School superintendent announces retirement

LEICESTER - Superintendent of Schools Paul K. Soojian announced at the very end of the School Committee meeting last night that he will be retiring from his post at the end of December. He gave no public reason for his decision.

"I've been thinking about this for over a year," he said. "It was a difficult decision to make, but I finally decided I had to do it."

Mr. Soojian, 59, is a Leicester native whose career in the local public school system includes 21 years as a teacher and two years as superintendent.

In between teaching and becoming superintendent in Leicester, he served in the Wachusett Regional School District and as Northbridge school superintendent.

He said he had called all of the Leicester School Committee members on Monday to let them know of his decision.

- Betty Lilyestrom


Board rates town manager's performance

MILLBURY - Citing Town Manager Robert J. Spain Jr.'s strong knowledge of the job, commitment to the town and fiscal management skills, but highlighting communication concerns, selectmen last night gave Mr. Spain an overall performance rating for the year of 3.72 on a five-point scale.

Mr. Spain was rated most highly on his ability to prepare and administer budgets, for which he received a rating average of 4.4 from the five selectmen.

His lowest rating among 11 job factors was for constituent relations and personal manner, for which he received an average rating of 3.2.

Overall, selectmen praised Mr. Spain's efforts in negotiating recent collective bargaining agreements and his effective management with most department heads.

They said Mr. Spain's communication with the board and the public needed improvement, however.

"We need to work as a team," Selectman Francis B. King said.

Mr. Spain thanked the board and pointed to a new practice this year of routinely sending emails from his office to the selectmen as a group, as a way to help keep them informed.

Selectman E. Bernard Plante, board chairman, said he thought the annual review process was "lousy" because, according to law, it has to be done on television. He said he was interested in seeing what other towns use as evaluation instruments. "We ought to change direction" with the survey form, he said.

- Susan Spencer


Beetles force removal of trees on Ireta Road

SHREWSBURY - Because of severe infestation of Asian long-horned beetles, about 90 percent of trees on a 13-acre of town land on Ireta Road will be removed this fall, selectmen were told last night.

The parcel is mostly wetlands, with red maple trees, the beetle's favorite tree. Red maple make up 90 percent of the trees on the site and 70 percent of the tree mass. About 100 infested red maples are on the site. Several large pine trees will be left.

"It's going to be an open cut. It's going to be ugly when it happens," Russ Wilmont, beetle forester with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said as he answered a question from an Ireta Road resident at the meeting.

He said that before the work begins, abutters will be contacted and other notifications are required to protect wetlands and resources on the site. The tree cuttings will happen this fall and take six to eight weeks, depending on the weather.

Two infested trees nearby at 12 Deer Grass Road were removed yesterday, Mr. Wilmont said.

Selectmen asked about replanting of trees...

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