WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A subcommittee is meeting this Wednesday morning to hash out language to be placed in the posting for a new superintendent of schools.
Steven Miller, Carolyn Greene and Joe Bergeron were charged last week to also develop a slate of names to recommend to the full committee so it can name the Search Committee early next month.
The Mount Greylock Regional School Transition Committee empowered the ad hoc subcommittee of its members to develop the district's advertisement for the position and, if no members ask for a meeting to consider the language, to post that advertisement as soon as possible.and voted to establish a seven-person search committee to help find the district's next permanent superintendent.
The committee decided on the following seats for the search panel: two members of the Transition Committee, one teacher, one parent, one principal, one town official from either Lanesborough or Williamstown and one Mount Greylock student.
That last seat, the student, generated the most conversation among the Transition Committee members.
Al Terranova said he did not think it was a good idea to put a student on the Search Committee.
"We have borders," Terranova said. "I don't think that's the role of a student, to select the superintendent — the same way students don't go to [academic] team meetings. We're the adults. We're elected to that position, and we should take it."
His colleagues disagreed.
"We've had a student on all our search committees for superintendents and principals," Greene said. "I think very highly of it. The students were very involved in the building process. We had educational visioning sessions, and students were involved in all of them. They're very bright, very engaged. I wouldn't recommend a search committee without one of them."
Chris Dodig told Terranova that the Transition Committee's last meeting showed an example of how engaged the school's students are when three student leaders presented the panel with a petition signed by more than 350 students encouraging the committee to offer the permanent job to interim Superintendent Kimberley Grady.
Principal Mary MacDonald also spoke up for the idea of having a student in the mix.
"We spend so much time … talking about the students being actively engaged citizens," MacDonald said. "To suggest that a student in high school would not be a good candidate for an interview team seems to fly in the face of that."
Terranova joined a 7-0 vote on the composition of the Search Committee, which will be charged with recommending up to three potential candidates to the full Transition Committee. From Jan. 1 through this November's election, the Transition Committee, made up of members of the three elected school committees from Lanesborough Elementary, Williamstown Elementary and Mount Greylock Regional, is the hiring authority for the superintendent.
That pool of up to three finalists the Transition Committee gets for final interviews need not necessarily include Grady. Dodig proposed that the Search Committee's charge include a requirement that it send to the next stage the interim superintendent, who is expected to apply for the position.
But the Transition Committee voted 5-2 (with Regina DiLego joining Dodig in the minority) not to prejudge the candidate pool and instead trust the Search Committee to do its job.
"I'm worried that if we right now say the interim superintendent advances to an interview, some people in the community will feel it's not an open search," Miller said. "We promised the public years ago it would be a six-month interim [appointment] followed by a one-year search.
"We agree there's a strong internal candidate, and we trust the Search Committee."
In fact, the Transition Committee voted at its January meeting to post an ad that specifically mentions the presence of a "strong internal candidate."
Last Thursday, that phrasing was thrown into doubt.
Transition Committee Chairman Bergeron surprised the panel by reporting back what he has learned from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees about the process of conducting a search.
"When I asked Dorothy Presser how that [strong internal candidate vote] translates into a posting environment, she said the minutes and news articles are how that gets conveyed," Bergeron said. "There is no wording that goes on the MASC website that conveys that."
Dodig pointed directly to the minutes of the Jan. 18 meeting, when the Transition Committee decided, 4-3, to post the position and immediately followed that vote with a 7-0 decision to include language in the district's ad noting the strong internal candidate.
"You want people to have to do research to find out we have a strong internal candidate," Dodig said, referring to the idea that meeting minutes and media coverage convey the notion.
"I think anyone who is interested will do a quick search and find news stories," Miller replied.
"They may," Dodig said. "But it's not the same."
Greene told her colleagues that she had a different impression from her conversations with MASC about what the district could and could not say in the ad. And it was agreed that the ad hoc committee drafting the job description and posting should clarify the issue.
"The ad hoc subcommittee needs to figure out how to abide by that [Jan. 18] motion of the committee," Bergeron said. "And if it's not possible, we will need to come back to the committee prior to posting."
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