Putnam Hired as Central Berkshire Superintendent

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Correspondent
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The School Committee on Thursday unanimously selected Assistant Superintendent Robert Putnam as the district's administrative leader.

DALTON, Mass. — Robert Putnam was officially selected as the next superintendent of the Central Berkshire Regional School District on Thursday, following a unanimous vote by its School Committee at Nessacus Regional Middle School.

Putnam, who is assistant superintendent of the CBRSD, will replace current Superintendent William Cameron, who announced his retirement following the completion of his three-year contract at the end of this school year.

"The reality is sinking in. This is an awesome responsibility. I'm actually, sort of at a loss for words, which I usually am not," Putnam said.

Putnam was the lone candidate considered for the vacancy, based on the decision of the School Committee to conduct its search in a method dictated by the emergence of an internal candidate. Most of the $10,000 appropriated to the superintendent search process will be reapplied to the current fiscal year budget.

The School Committee's personnel subcommittee will now be tasked with assessing the details of negotiating a contract, with the help of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, with Putnam, who will receive advice from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. He said he is confident they will reach an agreement. This process will take place in the next month.

The vote was made following a brief discussion reviewing the legality and authorization by the School Committee of the process taken by the subcommittee to conduct its search and recommendation in a previous meeting. About 40 members of the public attended the meeting, applauding the committee's decision.

"I think they made the best choice that they could have. Putnam is as good as anybody that I've ever worked with, in terms of, not just being a first-rate educator, but also a first-rate colleague. I think he's got the right disposition, a great temperament, he's very smart, he's experienced in the district — I think he'll do a terrific job," Cameron said.

Putnam had been passed over for the post in 2011 when Cameron was hired.

Given the complexities of a regional school district system and the immediacy of structural issues within it, Cameron said the district's transition in superintendent personnel will be be more fluid with Putnam's internal knowledge than it otherwise may have been.

"Partly, it's the way the district is constructed and the way that the schools are set up that compounds the problem of dealing with these budget issues," said Cameron. "So, he doesn't need to be brought up to speed. He's dealing with this every day we talk about these issues. There's not going to be a learning curve for him. He'll be able to take over immediately and be fully informed about everything that's going on in the district."

In the following month, district administrators and the School Committee will begin the process of hiring a candidate for assistant superintendent to fill the vacancy left by Putnam, who said a small subcommittee interviewed him for the same position when he was hired. A decision for the hiring of an assistant superintendent will likely be completed within the next three months.

Thursday's superintendent hiring came on the heels of a recommendation made by a 10-member search subcommittee delegated with the task of conducting the hiring process to fill the position that will become vacant at the end of June.

School Committee member Peter Gazzillo acknowledged the participating members of the superintendent search subcommittee created last October that he co-chaired along with Kittredge Elementary School Principal Deborah White, and which included teachers, parents, president of the teachers' union and committee members. Gazzillo explained in brief the process the subcommittee used in concluding that Putnam is the best candidate for the position, which accumulated in over 20 hours spent as a group consulting with authorities in the commonwealth on superintendent hirings, legal consul and current school superintendents, both city and regional, in Berkshire County before conducting a rigorous interview of Putnam on Tuesday.

A search subcommittee meeting at Nessacus on Jan. 6 yielded a list of 53 interview questions, the majority of which were posed to Putnam during a continuous, three-hour session on Jan. 7 that School Committee Chairman Michael Case attended as a member of the public.

"I want to let everyone know that the interview I witnessed on Tuesday was more intense than any police interrogation I've ever partaken in, and I don't think the Supreme Court candidates have ever been vetted like Dr. Putnam was that evening," Case said, acknowledging how well Putnam handled it.

On Dec. 21, the School Committee determined that, given the candidacy of a viable internal candidate for the opening, its search subcommittee would grant Putnam an exclusive interview, prior to the job being posted publicly, and recommend that the committee either hire him or continue with its search.

During a briefing made by Gazzillo about the progress of the search subcommittee at that meeting, committee member Gary Stergis abruptly asked Putnam about his intention to run for the vacancy as it becomes available, nearly leading to a vote-for-hire that night and forcing the administrator to answer a question he hadn't fully decided on prior to then, but which was a positive sign.

"To me, that, in and of itself, is such an indication of confidence," Putnam said, who answered affirmatively during that meeting without hesitation. "The assumption is that you're the assistant to become the superintendent."

Incidentally, Putnam said the hiring is fulfilling an aspiration he has had since he was in academia, but was put on hold to raise a family.

"This is what I've been preparing for for 30 years," Putnam said.

After dropping out of high school and earning his General Equivalency Diploma (GED), Putnam earned an associate degree in liberal arts at Berkshire Community. He completed post-graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts, earning a bachelor's degree in history, a master's in education and doctorate in curriculum study.

Tags: CBRSD,   search committee,   superintendent,   

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