New Pittsfield School Committee Faces Need For New Principals
By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent Print | Email
The newly constituted School Committee elected Cynthia Taylor, left as secretary and Katherine Yon as chairman.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At its first meeting Wednesday, a newly inaugurated School Committee examined one of the most important new challenges facing the district this year: replacing the leaders of three city schools before the next school year.
Conte and Allendale elementary schools, along with Herberg Middle School, all have current or upcoming openings for the position of principal, roles which Superintendent Jason McCandless says he hopes to have filled by this spring by conducting a more modernized search than has been done previously.
"As sad as I am to be losing the people we're working to replace, I see this in many ways as a tremendous opportunity for the city," McCandless told the committee, two-thirds of it newly elected to office this past November.
At Allendale, teacher Brenda Kelly is serving as interim principal to replace Carl Ameen, who is leaving after five years for a private sector position, and at Conte, interim principal Linda Avalle took the helm in August to replace Anna-Stina Wardlaw, who left after one year to accept an interim principal job in Southampton. At the end of this school year, Christopher Jacoby will also leave the district after running Herberg Middle School for 13 years.
"There were several things I was not looking to get super engaged in during my first year as a superintendent," said McCandless, who himself was hired at the end of last school year after a one-year search following the announcement of Howard J. Eberwein's departure the day after the last committee's inauguration. "Principal searches were one of them."
McCandless outlined his strategy for attracting and vetting ideal candidates, asking the committee's go ahead to deviate somewhat from outdated existing school policy, particularly in terms of advertising the position.
While existing language calls for taking out more traditional ads in major newspapers throughout the region, McCandless aims to utilize online tools and key professional publications for educators.
The superintendent hopes that carefully written ads such as in EducationWeek and an application process through SchoolSpring, among other measures, will help attract the most ideal individuals to take on these important positions. Instead of mailed applications and resumes, all applications will be done through SchoolSpring, a staple of the modern educational world.
"If a candidate is not able to apply through this online venue, we're not sure that that candidate is skilled enough to be lead a school moving into the second decade of the 21st century," McCandless said.
McCandless said the costs for his proposed marketing plan is not substantially more expensive, and could possibly be cheaper, than the traditional newspaper advertising stipulated in previous similar searches.
"It's a pretty outdated policy when you look at it," said Katherine Yon, who was unanimously voted committee chairman at the start of the meeting, along with Vice Chairman Daniel Elias and newcomer Cynthia Taylor as secretary, in a quick and cordial nomination process that starkly contrasted that of the previous term.
McCandless, who will make the ultimate hiring decision, said he envisions a comprehensive interview panel of some 15 or more people that will include teachers, staff, parents, community members and School Committee members.
With the position to be advertised as early as Jan. 20 and applicant reviews beginning in mid-February, McCandless said he envisions having finalist interviews beginning early March and a candidate chosen by mid-April.
"The timetable is slightly aggressive," said McCandless, not to rush the process but to ensure that if a perfect fit did not emerge in that process, it would still leave ample time search more."The worst thing we can do in service to the children is settle."
In a sole voice of concern, Elias said he would prefer to see hiring searches that were internal within the district first, a position he has also voiced in the past, but supported the superintendent's plan, joining the unanimous vote in favor of McCandless' proposed hiring plan.
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