Saccarappa Elementary School Principal Brian Mazjanis will take over as the Westbrook School Department’s interim finance director in the wake of Heather Neal’s resignation last week.

The school department is now looking for an interim principal for Saccarappa and a permanent replacement for Neal.

Neal Screen shot / Zoom

Neal has been widely credited with helping slash the school department’s deficit to $588,054 from the more than $3 million in debt uncovered in early 2020 and blamed on financial mismanagement.

Neal was hired August 2020 when city officials told the school department to hire a finance director with appropriate financial knowledge.

While Mazjanis does not have a background in finance, Mayor Mike Foley, a vocal critic of the department’s previous financial problems, said he and City Administrator Jerre Bryant think Mazjanis will do well, especially once the school department fills an open accountant position.

I’m optimistic he will be able to fulfill this role and help the school department navigate through this time. He’ll admit he doesn’t have all the accounting skills, but he’s been a school administrator for a long time and is superintendent-certified,” Foley said. 

“They recognize through the deficit that they were weak in finance management of the schools,” he added, “and I feel like they are trying to step up and make improvements.”

Superintendent Peter Lancia said the decision to bring Mazjanis on board so quickly was because the department had an immediate need for a finance director to continue working on the deficit and to deal with a number of grants. Principals are easier to find than finance directors, he said.

Mazjanis has a Ph.D in public policy with a concentration in educational leadership and policy from the University of Southern Maine. He first started in the school district as an interim principal in 2006. He recently had surgery and did not respond to requests for comment before the American Journal’s deadline.

Neal, a resident of South China, said her lack of success in finding housing closer to Westbrook was her major reason for stepping down.

“I am sad to leave Westbrook. I had long-term plans for the district and looked forward to leading WSD toward great opportunities. I hope all my hard work will continue to pave the way for years to come,” Neal said.

She has accepted a job as finance director for the nonprofit Maine Math & Science Alliance in Augusta.

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