Williamstown-Lanesborough Tri-District Picks Interim Superintendent

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Gordon Noseworthy, the Williamstown-Lanesborough schools new interim superintendent, answers questions by video conference on Friday.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Gordon Noseworthy of Northampton has been selected as the interim superintendent of Williamstown and Lanesborough schools.

The one-time interim Pittsfield superintendent was picked over two other candidates on Friday afternoon in a meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee and Superintendency Union 71, a combination of Lanesborough Elementary and Williamstown Elementary.

Noseworthy won out largely because committee members thought he had the political acumen to handle the contentious relationship between the rest of the Tri-District and the Lanesborough School Committee.

Together, Mount Greylock and SU71 form what is commonly referred to as the "Tri-District," in which the three independent school districts share the cost of central administration.

On Friday, all seven members of the Mount Greylock School Committee and four of the six elected officials who serve on the SU71 panel, interviewed all three candidates and made the selection in a meeting that took a little more than three hours.

Two of the three members of the Lanesborough committee, Robert Barton and James Moriarty, did not attend Friday's interview, and each is on record saying they favor breaking up SU71. All three school committees' chairs this fall said the discord was a factor in the Tri-District's failure to attract a large pool of candidates when it initially sought a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Rose Ellis.

In an initial "straw poll" of the 11 committee members at the table, Noseworthy had a clear majority overall, but the SU71 contingent was split with two favoring him and two favoring another finalist, Stockbridge's Donna Moyer.

The successful candidate needed a majority from each body, which meant four of the seven Mount Greylock committee members in attendance and all four of the SU71 representatives; the district's counsel had advised the committees that a majority of the quorum was insufficient, and it needed four of the six people who serve on the SU71. By the union's agreement, the SU71 board is composed of three representatives from the Williamstown committee and all three members of the Lanesborough committee.

After the straw poll, the committees discussed the candidates, and while all agreed that Moyer was a strong candidate, Noseworthy was deemed best to equipped to cope with the issues faced by the Tri-District at this time.

"I feel like the political situation in Lanesborough is more charged," Williamstown committee member Dan Caplinger said. "I don't know which of Donna [Moyer] or Gordon [Noseworthy] is better able to handle that."

"Hands down, Gordon," Lanesborough Chairwoman Regina DiLego said. "They'd chew her up and spit her out."

"Let me take it a step further," Caplinger said. "Would they embrace Gordon or would he be the lesser of two evils?"

"I won't speak to that," DiLego said. "They're not here. I can't speak for them."

Moments later, the Mount Greylock and SU71 committees took separate unanimous votes to approve Noseworthy. They then went into executive session to discuss salary ranges so that the Tri-District's Administrative Review Subcommittee can negotiate a compensation package for his six-month appointment.

Noseworthy was unable to attend Friday's interview but instead participated remotely by videoconference.

Several committee members commented on the enthusiasm he displayed during the 45-minute interview and contrasted it with a more reserved style displayed by Moyer, a former interim superintendent in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and the superintendent for seven years in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District in Stockbridge.

"[Noseworthy] has a high level of energy," Mount Greylock School Committee member Chris Dodig said. "He knows the things we're going through pretty well. Donna I liked, too. As she got going [in the interview], I liked her even more. She was soft spoken but tough."

Dodig's Mount Greylock colleague Wendy Penner was one of those who came out of the interviews rating Moyer just ahead of Noseworthy.

"I was impressed by the way she did her due diligence and knew the challenges here," Penner said. "She didn't convey personal warmth, which was a strength of Gordon's. Donna showed dedication and breadth of experience."

Lack of specific experience as a superintendent weighed against the third candidate, John Burruto of Amherst.

Burruto's resume includes teaching a course on professional development in education at American International College and stints as principal at three different high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Like Noseworthy, Burruto has worked in a nearby district - in his case as a school district examiner monitoring the North Adams Public Schools for the state's Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.

School committee members from Lanesborough and Williamstown interview Stockbridge's Donna Moyer.

But it does not include time as a superintendent or even an interim superintendent, a sticking point with several committee members.

On the other hand, Dodig praised Burruto for his answer to the question of how he would help close the performance gap in standardized test scores - an issue of particular concern at Williamstown, where MCAS scores are high but the school's lag in closing the gap keeps it at Level 2 status with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Another committee member said the Tri-District might be well served at some point seeking Burruto's services as a consultant.

But for its current needs, the choice was Noseworthy, a graduate of McGill University in Montreal who did his graduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at the University of Massachusetts. He was an assistant principal at Taconic High School from 1969-70 before going on to the two longest stints of his administrative career: assistant principal and principal at Frontier (1970-81) and principal at Northampton (1981-96).

He moved on to be an assistant superintendent in Sturbridge's Tantasqua Regional School District (1996-99) and a superintendent in Monson (1999-2002), and Kingston's Silver Lake Regional School District (2002-05).

After retirement, he worked as an interim superintendent in North Brookfield in 2010-11 and Pittsfield in 2012-13.

On Friday afternoon, he emphasized the full range of his experience, which includes teaching in elementary, middle and high school classrooms in Great Britain, Canada and the United States.

"A superintendent ought to have empathy for all the rolls in a district," Noseworthy said. "That's where I come from.

"Basically, I like people. I like teaching. I like to think I hit the ground running and I'm quick to learn."

Tags: interim appointment,   MGRHS,   SU71,   superintendent,   

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Mount Greylock School Committee Gets Report on Start of School Year

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District on Tuesday evening plans a community forum on the start of the school year.
The School Committee last Thursday heard that things are going as well as can be expected as the PreK-12 district re-invents the way it teaches students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are really appreciative of the fact that we've had a couple of weeks of remote learning actually, despite some challenges," said Joelle Brookner, who this summer transitioned from being principal at Williamstown Elementary School to being director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
"Bringing in small groups of people that we have in each of the student support centers in the schools has its own set of challenges, and it's allowed us to work out some kinks. It's allowing us to anticipate some of what the problems are probably going to be when we have more students in the building, such as distancing."
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