Vosburgh says he believes he could improve the school district's state level and status.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — School officials scheduled interviews with four finalist candidates for superintendent of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
The School Committee is searching for a replacement for Superintendent Robert Putnam, who is retiring at the end of the school year. At the same time, it is in talks with North Adams about possibly sharing a top administrator.
The interviews began Wednesday night with two interviews, the first being with Taconic High School Principal John Vosburgh. Also making the finalist cut are Ellen Retelle, director of teaching and learning at Connecticut's Capitol Region Education Council; Maria Geryk, former superintendent of the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools; and William Bazyk, superintendent of the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union in Vermont.
The interview with Vosburgh is below; the other interviews will be reported separately. The committee may make its determination after the final interview on Monday night.
Vosburgh has been principal of the Pittsfield vocational high school since 2009, after two years as vice principal at Reid Middle School. He was recently one of two finalists for the superintendent post at Mount Greylock Regional School District, losing out to the interim superintendent who had been in place for more than a year.
He received his bachelor's degree from Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, his master of education degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in the state of Florida.
Vosburgh said Pittsfield has a similar population and faces many of the same issues as Adams-Cheshire, despite its larger size.
"I have really seen the full gambit of education in Pittsfield, which to me is very similar to Adams-Cheshire. Our populations mirror each other," he said. "I think this is a good fit for me and I think that you have a community that has a lot of pride, history and culture that goes way back ... and it is a community like that that goes above and beyond for their kids."
He was told about the challenges the district has faced, most notably the closing of Cheshire School and asked how he would overcome the tension between the two communities and move the district out of a Level 3 status.
"Clearly the closing of a school is a wound that goes deep and one that will take some time to heal but I think at the end of the day when people think about the schools and the need to move from Level 3 the focus has to be on the kids," he said. "It is not the bricks and mortar that ultimately form the education of the students."
He went on to say he would use data to help inform the district on the best ways to improve scores and that it was important to share that information with stakeholders.
"You have to know what the needs are and gaps. What are we doing well and where do we need some help?" Vosburgh said. "I am a data person and ... I do think that data tells us a story and give us information on how well our students are doing."
Vosburgh said he would make sure teachers are aligning with state standards and set up benchmarks to improve student learning. He added that he would track every student, pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and help them improve.
"My goal coming in here is to become a Level 1 district and to me the size of the district allows us to really focus on individual student needs," he said. "I think it is very doable."
Vosburgh said he was confident if the school could pull out of Level 3 the students choicing out of the district would return.
"As we improve our scores and status I think that the school choice issue will take care of itself," he said. "I think students want to stay in their home school and I think that we need to just provide them with the best opportunities."
He was in favor of sharing professional development and support with other districts but was hesitant to go beyond that if it wasn't a benefit to the district.
"When it fits, I think collaborative efforts can work. I am very much a team player ... but I feel like we have to be careful," he said. "If you hire me I am working for Adams and Cheshire and if collaboration makes sense to our district than that's wonderful but if it doesn't it doesn't. I think we have to take care of ourselves first and then maybe look outside."
More specifically with North Adams, Vosburgh said the communities have different needs and it may be difficult for one person to oversee two school systems.
In response to how he could improve programming, Vosburgh went over an "Academy Model" implemented at Taconic that allows students to sign up for electives that follow a specific career path.
"It just better prepares our students for college and the workplace and when they are sitting across from the admission counselor ... they see that these kids really focused on a certain field," he said.
He asked if the district ever reached out to McCann Technical School about allowing students to take classes at Hoosac Valley but participate in shops at McCann. He said this is practiced at Taconic.
Vosburgh concluded and said if hired, he would likely retire from Adams-Cheshire.
"I love the Berkshires, and I have lived here my entire life .. this is not a stepping stone for me," he said. "I see myself retiring in 8-10 years and if I am fortunate enough to be chosen, I would stay here for that time. I think this is a perfect fit for me."
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