WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Monday morning agreed on an "expedited" timeline for hiring a new permanent superintendent and inadvertently revealed a possible violation of the Open Meeting Law by the committee in the process.
The committee decided to post a job opening for a two- to three-year appointment with a deadline of July 24 or 27 for applications and a hope of having a new superintendent in place in early August.
On Saturday, July 11, the district sent community members an email from Kimberley Grady that said she is "stepping down" from the post. But the committee has never, in open session, acknowledged the receipt of a letter of resignation nor discussed whether it intended to offer Grady an extension on her contract.
School Committee Chair Christina Conry has not replied to a Saturday afternoon request by iBerkshires.com to know the date of any resignation letter received by the district.
On July 6, the committee appointed Robert Putnam interim superintendent, announcing that Grady was on "medical leave."
But a comment from committee member Al Terranova during Monday morning's special meeting of the School Committee shows that the panel knew at least since July 1 that it would be permanently replacing Grady.
"I thought at our last meeting, that the decision was we were going to hire an interim superintendent from now until June 30  and then, on July 1 , get a full-time, three-year committed superintendent," Terranova said in the 13th minute of the 36-minute Zoom-based meeting. "Getting a full-time, committed, three-year contract with a superintendent in — now — is this the superintendent time? Most superintendents are settled for this year.
"I don't think the pool will be as large in July of a calendar year. I think March and February is when the pool opens."
The "last meeting" Terranova referred to appears to be the School Committee's July 1 special executive session. It was the fourth of four executive sessions in about a month's time called for the purpose of conducting "strategy sessions in preparation for contract negotiations with non-union personnel (Superintendent)."
While it is conceivable that Grady's job status in the district could have been an acceptable topic for an executive session, it was not the stated topic for 2 1/2 hours of closed-door meetings over the course of a month.
The last time the district abruptly parted ways with a superintendent, the move came after a protracted executive session convened for the purpose of discussing "the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual," an allowable exception to commonwealth's Open Meeting Law.
None of the other five School Committee members on Monday's call disputed Terranova's assertion that the panel had "decided" on a spring 2021 search for a full-time superintendent. In fact, they did not acknowledge that part of his statement.
As for his broader point — that mid-July is not the time to engage in a search for a school superintendent — Terranova was joined by Alison Carter in expressing trepidation about an "expedited" search for the district's chief executive officer, who is responsible for, among other things, supervising the principals of the preK-12 district's three schools.
"This is a really quick timeline for hiring anyone, let alone a superintendent on a two- or three-year contract," Carter said. "I'm just wondering if those of you who have been around longer can elaborate on why you feel comfortable with this as our preferred way forward.
"If we are [comfortable], that's great. I agree it would be best to have the best person we can in the position as fast as we can."
Carolyn Greene said she understood the concerns raised by Carter and Terranova and pointed out that if the School Committee does not get a strong pool of candidates for the superintendent position at this time, it always can keep the position open and stay with interim superintendents until hiring a full-time applicant during the normal hiring season.
"I think it's worth a shot," Greene said. "If it doesn't work out with a good candidate pool, we can always hire an interim superintendent.
"It's out there that we're in transition. There is some awareness. And there isn't a vast number of superintendents in Massachusetts to begin with. … To put it out there and see if there are any hits would be a good thing."
Jamie Art asked whether, given the exigent circumstances of the district trying to replace a superintendent during the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee wanted to advertise the job as a one-year appointment.
"It may depend on the candidate," Greene said. "I think it would be hard to get an experienced superintendent on a one-year contract."
Steven Miller agreed.
"Last time [when Grady was hired in 2018], we discussed a two- or three-year contract," Miller said. "I am worried about how attractive the position could be for someone to uproot themselves and come for a one-year position."
The committee ultimately voted 6-0 to authorize Conry, in consultation with district counsel Adam Dupere, to revise the 2018 posting and advertise the position as soon as Monday with the two-week application window Conry had proposed.
Dupere first assured the panel that it had the authority to conduct the hiring process within its seven-person body and did not need to convene a traditional search committee that includes parents, teachers and other community members to make recommendations to the School Committee.
In a separate vote, the School Committee decided to solicit questions from the community to include in its screening process for superintendent candidates. Conry pointed out that there are laws governing what a school committee can and cannot ask during that process, but within those bounds, the panel agreed it is good to try to include the community in the truncated hiring process.
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Mount Greylock Interim Superintendent Proposing Fully Remote Start to School Year
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School District's interim superintendent Tuesday told the community he will propose the district start the year with fully remote learning for general education students.
In a virtual town hall, Robert Putnam previewed the proposal for the start of school that he will present to the School Committee for a vote on Thursday evening. Districts throughout the commonwealth must present their reopening plans, approved by school committees, to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by Friday.
Putnam emphasized throughout his presentation that all of his plans for the preK-12, three school district are still subject to negotiation with the district's teachers union. He mentioned "bargaining" at least four times in his half-hour presentation before addressing attendees' questions.
As he has throughout his six-week tenure as interim superintendent, Putnam said remote learning will be the cornerstone of the district's planning for the 2020-21 school year. And when classes resume in mid-September, Putnam expects remote learning to be the only mode of instruction.
Putnam said that, depending in part on the levels of COVID-19 infection in the area, the district will, at some point, offer families the option of keeping their child or children home for remote learning or sending the children to school for part of the week in a hybrid model.
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The college's vice president for finance and administration told the board in a virtual meeting that the impact on the community is something that is discussed every day by the school as it prepares for the beginning of students' arrival on Aug. 24.
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The committee did not disclose a starting date for McCandless, who currently is the superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools. Pittsfield has voted to hold McCandless to the 90-day notice in his contract.
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