GOVERNORS at the city's largest school are set to appoint a new headteacher – on a salary almost half of that of the previous head.
West Exe Technology College interviewed six candidates for the post this week.
After the three-day process, if a candidate is successful, the governors, chaired by Peter Scott (pictured), are due to ratify the appointment at a full board of governors meeting.
In line with Government guidelines, Mr Scott confirmed the post has been advertised as having a salary range of £78,298 to £90,704.
Since the resignation of the school's former executive head Steve Maddern in May 2012, following the Echo's revelation of his £156,000 pay packet, deputy headteacher Vicky Carah has been acting head.
In October last year, the Echo revealed details of a damning report into the financial management of Mr Maddern and former chairman of governors Paul Smith.
The audit report, carried out by Devon County Council, looked into the running of the school in recent years and criticised the close relationship between Mr Maddern and Mr Smith. The £86,000 salary of Mr Maddern's wife Beverley, who was senior deputy headteacher, was also deemed excessive by auditors. Mrs Maddern also resigned in the spring of 2012.
Last November the Echo revealed the police have been investigating whether salary fraud had taken place at the school under Mr Maddern's leadership since July.
Mr Scott, who became chairman of governors after Mr Smith stood down in February last year, confirmed that legal advice into whether any part of Mr or Mrs Maddern's salaries could be recovered, or whether their pensions could be adjusted, is on hold while police continue with their investigation.
It is up to a school's governing body to decide the salary of its staff, and once an appointment for a new headteacher has been made the final starting salary will be agreed.
Mr Scott said the board decided to wait until now to hold the interviews as the priority had been to ensure the smooth running of the school in the wake of Mr Maddern's resignation.
If the board appoint someone today, they are hoping the new headteacher will be in place for the start of the summer term this year.
"We did not want to run for too long in an acting head position," Mr Scott explained to the Echo.
"Vicky has done a really good job and should be commended for the way she has kept the school running smoothly, but there are certain things that can't be moved on in an acting head situation.
"It's been a disruptive and difficult time for the staff but they have been dedicated and done a really good job, keeping teaching and learning going so well.
"When you bring someone new in it will cause a ripple and there will be a bedding down period, but the college is in a good position, the staff are fantastically supportive and cooperative.
"This is the next stage for us."