WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District's Transition Committee Thursday voted to offer its superintendent position to interim Superintendent Kimberly Grady.
On a vote of 6-0-1 with committee member Steven Miller abstaining, the panel chose Grady from among two finalists for the position.
Thursday's special meeting of the Transition Committee kicked off with two hour-long interviews of Grady and Taconic High School Principal John Vosburgh, and the vote was preceded by a 45-minute discussion in which the committee members reflected on the answers they heard in the interview and discussed the extent to which each candidate would be a good fit to lead the three-school preK-12 district.
Although both candidates were given high marks for their performance in the interview, a theme that ran through several of the committee members' remarks was that the recently expanded regional school district needs someone in the corner office who has experience as a superintendent and a background in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.
In March 2015, the district (then operating as a Tri-District that included Mount Greylock and its two feeder elementary schools) hired a then-high school principal seeking his first superintendency post. In November 2016, that relationship ended abruptly, eventually leading to Grady, then the assistant superintendent, being elevated to the interim post.
Earlier this year, the Transition Committee voted 4-3 to post the permanent position and 7-0 to include language in that advertisement saying the district had a "strong internal candidate." On Thursday, Grady's strength as a candidate was confirmed.
"Two years ago, I don't know what I would have said, but I feel like we've had a two-year interview with Ms. Grady and the opportunity to observe her over that time," said committee member Chris Dodig, who led off the discussion of Grady as a candidate. "She's impressed me considerably. Her work ethic, everything she brings to the table.
"It would take a big gap between candidates to give up the familiarity, the continuity. Even just being involved with the negotiations [to bring contracts from the three schools into alignment] and the regionalization stuff and the building project and the Williams [College] gift.
"Ms. Grady, having that continuity and familiarity, is a big benefit for us and one I'd be hard-pressed to give up."
Miller, who ultimately chose to abstain from both parts of a two-stage voting process, joined his colleagues in praising Grady for her work in her current capacity, pointing out the strong relationships she has developed in both member towns, Lanesborough and Williamstown.
All the committee members also praised the performance from Vosburgh, with a couple noting that they were grateful he chose to participate in the process even with the presence of a strong internal candidate.
"In terms of fit, I think his fit was as good as I could have asked for from a candidate who lacks prior superintendent experience," Dodig said.
"He knows how to lead a building," Regina DiLego said, alluding to Vosburgh's nine years as Taconic's principal. "But it concerns me that he doesn't have the experience leading a district. It would be a learning position for him, and I don't think that's a good fit for us."
Carolyn Greene noted that the complications specific to Mount Greylock in 2018 would make it particularly challenging for a first-time superintendent.
"[Vosburgh] probably, I would imagine, very likely would be able to come up to speed on all of those things," Greene said of the inherent challenge of operating a three-school district. "I would add that we're a challenge. We, in and of ourselves, are the challenge because of the position we're in with the building project and regionalization.
"It's not that someone doesn't have experience. We're requiring more experience than we would if it was five years down the road or a few years back."
A couple of the committee members said they were looking for more specifics from Vosburgh, but Al Terranova said he thought Vosburgh had a lot of things going for him.
"I liked the idea that I got the feeling he had a connection with teachers and parents and students," Terranova said. "I liked the fact that he obviously knows about Berkshire County. He knew about Mount Greylock.
"I think in the years to come, we'll see questions about expanding or contracting districts, and he understands the setting of Berkshire County. That bodes well for him and bodes well for us."
Terranova, who reiterated during the discussion that he feels internal candidates have an "unfair advantage," praised the job that Grady has done in the interim post, cited a number of interview answers that he particularly liked and generally gave her high marks.
"She's sharp," Terranova said. "There's no two ways about it. She knows her stuff."
Transition Committee Chairman Joe Bergeron, who serves on the committee as one of two representatives of the Williamstown Elementary School Committee, said that Vosburgh, who lists no elementary school experience on his resume, would face particular challenges in the PreK-12 district.
"I think that from the outset of this process, making sure the elementary schools and their age group would have as much emphasis as the middle/high school, has been important," Bergeron said. "I didn't hear from Dr. Vosburgh that response that indicated he's already thinking about them. He fell back on his experience, which is valuable.
"But for our buildings … understanding that the emphasis will be spread across all three buildings … that is really important. That's a challenge for Dr. Vosburgh."
From 2010-16, Grady was the director of pupil personnel services for Mount Greylock, Lanesborough Elementary and Williamstown Elementary, overseeing special education throughout the three schools.
Bergeron also said the successful candidate would need to have experience in regional schools.
"I don't believe [Vosburgh] showed experience within a regional setup," Bergeron said. "The pair of towns we represent here and the interests of the numerous buildings across two towns is a challenge, compared with a single city or town."
And, later, Bergeron talked about the notion that Grady is more than a "short-term fit" for the challenges the district faces today.
"Let's say I was at another regional school district, preK-12 in Berkshire County that's not us or it was us five years from now," Bergeron said. "[From Grady], I got answers to the questions tonight that showed mindfulness of the process. For example, the question about moving the secondary and primary school start times — one, it relates to [staff] contracts; two, it relates to contracts around buses; three, it relates to sports.
"Also, the idea that within special education that building programs internally can serve students' needs better and contain costs. The other thing is preK-12 … We need to make sure all of our students are addressed over the next few years, and any preK-12 district needs to be aware of that."
The Transition Committee now will enter into negotiations with Grady on a three-year contract. Assuming that process is successful, the district will have two positions to fill, a currently vacant assistant superintendent post and the director of pupil personnel services position currently filled on an interim basis. The district also is deciding whether it wants to fill its business manager post or continue its contract with Auburn's The Management Solution for business management services.
"I do think it will be interesting to see what happens when [Grady] has a full support team working with her," Dan Caplinger said prior to Thursday's vote. "Rather than juggling all the things she's been doing, she can really focus on what she wants her legacy to be."
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