PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee on Wednesday offered interim Superintendent Joseph Curtis the position permanently, a move that prompted one committee member to immediately resign.
Curtis was selected from four candidates on a 4-3 vote with Mayor Linda Tyer, Daniel Elias, William Cameron and Chairwoman Katherine Yon voting in his favor. He accepted the position after being contacted immediately following the vote.
Member Dennis Powell, the only supporter of Portia Bonner, a Connecticut administrator, publicly resigned from the committee in protest after the vote.
"It's unfortunate, and I really felt that at the beginning of this whole process, I could have wrote this ending, that's the way this whole process was run," Powell said before signing out of the Zoom meeting. "So really, unfortunately, I just have to take the position and I'm just going to resign from this body, input my energy for the community somewhere where I think I will have a voice."
Members Alison McGee and Mark Brazeau supported Marisa Mendonsa, who they felt was a forward thinker and well qualified even though she was the only applicant who had not previously served as a superintendent.
Six members of the committee then voted to unanimously support Curtis; Powell did not vote.
"I believe Mr. Curtis has all of the personal and professional qualities and character traits needed for leadership," Tyer said. "In the community search survey, the top three characteristics identified by the community as most important for the next superintendent, and I'm going to just summarize them, a champion for education, commitment to leadership as an experienced professional. When I look at these three most important elements identified by the community, Mr. Curtis' record of accomplishment, he gets high marks in many of these categories."
Members of the committee praised Curtis for navigating the pandemic with all of the constantly shifting and complex elements of COVID-19 since stepping into the post last fall. Cameron said Curtis has proven his leadership by guiding the district through the most difficult time in public education that he has seen in 40 plus years.
"Although many days have seen more than difficult. Some might even say next to impossible. I know that each day has made me stronger, more committed to our school system, our staff, and of course our community," Curtis said in his interview with committee on Monday.
Cameron also felt that Curtis has strengths in instructional and management experience, his deep familiarity with the community, its agencies, its neighborhoods, and organizations, as well as his deeply rooted sense of the district's needs for being reshaped and reformed, both physically and culturally that make him a superior candidate.
"I believe there is a great benefit in nominating Mr. Curtis because he has dedicated his entire career to the Pittsfield public schools and to our community," Tyer said. "In each position that he's held, he's gained insight into teaching, learning and leading that position him well for success as a superintendent."
Yon cited Curtis' interview in which he emphasized the importance of leading with "empathy not sympathy." She said he really understands what kids go through and how they live every day, being a father of adoptive children, and has a grasp of what students need to be successful.
While Elias voted for Curtis because of his "understanding of the community's needs and strength in financial management," he had some concerns about areas he would like to see Curtis better himself in if chosen.
Elias said Curtis needs to delegate because he cannot do everything on his own, settle on a curriculum and direction, listen to teachers, be visible, and market the district.
"Sometimes you just have to show up to a school event or a classroom just to let them know that you care," he added. "No interaction just the 'hi.' Jake [McCandless] had the ability to make the janitor feel like the most important person in the building."
Though Curtis was not McGee and Brazeau's first choice, they supported his appointment.
Brazeau said Curtis' dedication to the community and staff within the district has been "impeccable" and that he is "very student-centric." He also credited Curtis for growing in his career and for being in the district for the entire duration of it.
To Brazeau, Curtis' homogeneous career is also a con.
"He's sheltered, he has no diversity, he hasn't seen other districts," he said. "I have a serious question on can he attract candidates of diversity, staff retention, listening to the teacher's voice, and bringing their mind and decision making and a vision of long term planning."
On the contrary, McGee believes that Curtis' community involvement is something that could use improvement.
"Joe does always do a good job. He is a very hard worker. And I don't think anyone on the committee has a doubt about that. It was the direction our district needs to head though and I think it is one that is adaptive to the environment," she said. "I think as aware as he is of our student population in the school makeup, I think awareness of the community that surrounds it is lacking. An involvement in that community is not apparent."
A number of committee members expressed that their choice was between Curtis and Mendonsa. Applicant Arthur Unobskey did not get any votes.
Because of an unverified rumor suggesting that unnamed School Committee members encouraged Curtis to apply for the position, he submitted a letter to be read for the public record that stated: "No member of the committee encouraged or asked me to apply for the position of superintendent to public schools, the application submission was done in February, which was before the stated application date. Feb. 7, 2020."
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Greylock and Credit Union of the Berkshires Agree to Merger
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Greylock Federal Credit Union and Credit Union of the Berkshires (CUB), both of Pittsfield, have reached a definitive merger agreement subject to the approval of the CUB membership and regulatory agencies.
"We are pleased that Greylock and Credit Union of the Berkshires have reached this merger agreement," said Greylock President and CEO John L. Bissell. "We know that the credit union difference remains strong in Berkshire County. We look forward to completing the merger and
combining the resources of CUB and Greylock to help the community thrive."
With final approval of the merger, Greylock will assume CUB's nearly $23 million in assets.
The downtown branch will crank out juices and smoothies at 48 North St., the former Brooklyn's Best. It is a 650-square-foot space that owner Jonathan Vella said he has always loved because "it is that tiny perfect little hole in the wall."
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BRPC's Executive Committee unanimously approved the document on Thursday, which includes concerns for proposals that will eliminate Great Barrington and Lee/Lenox as urban clusters and reclassify the urban area of Pittsfield.
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On Friday morning, Mayor Linda Tyer delivered "breaking news" that the parade will be canceled this year for the second time since 1977. It was also canceled last year due to the novel coronavirus.
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