Pittsfield Boards to Select School Committee Replacement
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee and City Council will meet Wednesday evening to fill a vacancy on the School Committee left by the abrupt departure of Dennis Powell.
Five letters of interest have been submitted for the term expiring in December.
Powell resigned April 14 in protest over the committee's decision to offer the superintendent's position to Joseph Curtis, the deputy superintendent who'd been temporarily filling the post since last fall.
Powell had been the only supporter of Portia Bonner, a Connecticut administrator and the only Black candidate. He signed off during the Zoom meeting and submitted a formal resignation letter to City Clerk Michele Benjamin on April 29.
In accordance with the city charter, both committee and council will meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. to vote on a replacement to complete the last months of Powell's four-year term.
"For a better part of 3 1/2 years, I have tried and thought that I could make a difference in the educational system of Pittsfield Public Schools by being a member of the school committee. Over these past 3 1/2 years, I've been disrespected, ignored, and at times made to feel that my voice meant nothing!" Powell wrote in his letter.
"How the Superintendents process was handled and based on the outcome; was abundantly clear to me; this school committee is not committed to diversity equity and inclusion. Every child is entitled to receive a quality, equitable education!"
The day after Curtis' appointment and Powell's informal resignation, Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey addressed those who voted for Curtis: Mayor Linda Tyer, Daniel Elias, William Cameron, and Chairwoman Katherine Yon, in a Facebook post and email stating that they had failed the district with their selection.
Councilor at Large Earl Persip III and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio seconded Kavey's sentiments over email.
Persip said the superintendent selection was thorough up until the point of selection, where the interviews and voting occurred on three consecutive days.
"I am extremely sorry that Mr. Powell has made a decision to resign," Mayor Linda Tyer told iBerkshires following Powell's resignation. "And I hope that he will reconsider. I understand his frustration and disappointment and I am committed to continuing this work, even when we disagree."
Members of the committee have expressed that they wish that they could have convinced Powell to stay.
"I have known Dennis for quite a long time, I was I was very disappointed to learn of his resignation," Elias said. "I tried to reach out to him, hopeful that he would change his mind. You know, of course, he didn't."
Elias said he is curious to see how Wednesday's meeting plays out, as this has never happened before under this charter.
"I think there's a number of things to be played out," he said.
Cameron said he has nothing to add to the situation and will carefully deliberate the short-term member of the panel.
"I have nothing to add to what's already been said regarding Mr. Powell's resignation," he wrote in an email.
"As for the candidates who've come forward for appointment to serve out the remainder of Mr. Powell's term of office, the members of the School Committee have only just this morning received the letters submitted by the five candidates. I will give each of them careful consideration before tomorrow's joint meeting with the City Council."
Reportedly, Licensing Board member and former Councilor at Large Kathleen Amuso has submitted a letter of interest. Amuso served on the School Committee from 2003 to 2013, when she left to run for city councilor.
No other applicants have been confirmed.
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