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Mount Greylock Superintendent Jason McCandless, seen at 2022's graduation, tendered his resignation last week; the School Committee is holding a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss next steps.
Updated May 21, 2024 12:39PM

Mount Greylock's McCandless Announces Resignation

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Updated on Tuesday afternoon to clarify Rose Ellis' tenure as superintendent in Williamstown and Lanesborough.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — For the fourth time in the last 10 years, the Mount Greylock Regional School District will be looking for a new permanent superintendent.
 
After four years at the helm and just one year into his current contract, Jason McCandless is stepping down.
 
The regional School Committee has a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday night with a brief but significant agenda. Item four on the agenda: to discuss the resignations of the superintendent and the principal at Williamstown Elementary School.
 
Item five refers to the next steps for the committee, including, perhaps, hiring another interim superintendent to lead the Lanesborough-Williamstown district.
 
McCandless made his announcement on Friday in an email to the district's "families and friends."
 
"It's with a heavy heart that I write to share with you that I will be resigning as superintendent following the end of the school year," the email begins.
 
McCandless' email gives no indication of his reason for leaving. Instead, it characteristically thanks those he served for giving him the opportunity in a position he has held since 2020.
 
"Our children deserve great people in their academic and emotional lives," McCandless wrote. "They deserve them, and they have them. The Mount Greylock community has tremendous gifts in its children and tremendous gifts in those who help those children learn and grow in each of your schools."
 
McCandless' announcement came a little more than a week after an emotional School Committee meeting that focused on incidents of racial bias at the district's schools and included frank comments from McCandless, who made a campaign of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging a cornerstone of his administration.
 
"I will say that Mount Greylock has presented challenges unlike any place I have ever been in terms of being flummoxed at times over, 'What do we need to do?' sometimes with the adults and sometimes with the students, to get people to not engage in blatantly racist language and practices," said McCandless, who served as superintendent in Lee and Pittsfield before arriving in at Mount Greylock. "And I would add to racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, treating people who are perceived as poor as less than human, treating people with disabilities as less than human.
 
"I have convictions that come from a much deeper place than simply being an educator about the value of every human being. Listening to the six speakers tonight was as hard for me to hear as it was for you to hear."
 
McCandless' successor — whether interim or permanent — will be the sixth person to occupy the corner office since the retirement of Rose Ellis in 2014 after 14 years as an area administrator -- first at Williamstown Elementary School in 2000, starting in 2008 as the superintendent of both Williamstown and Lanesborough and, starting in 2010, as the superintendent of all three schools under a shared services agreement.
 
Ellis' immediate successor was Gordon Noseworthy, who served from January to June in 2015.
 
The School Committee then hired Doug Dias, who left under a cloud about a year and a half into the job.
 
Kimberley Grady, who served as assistant superintendent under Dias, was named acting superintendent, then interim superintendent and later permanent superintendent, a job she held from the spring of 2018 until the summer of 2020.
 
Robert Putnam served as interim superintendent after Grady's departure.
 
McCandless was hired away from the Pittsfield Public Schools later that summer. He renewed his contract with the district in October 2023.
 
When outlining his goals to the School Committee in February, he spoke about the next three to four years.
 
"My intention is to be here for most of my current contract, because it's a pleasure and an honor to be here," he said.

Tags: resignation,   superintendent,   

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Williamstown Select Board Discusses Justice Department Program for Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday discussed inviting a U.S. Department of Justice program into the local public schools to help address bias incidents.
 
Randal Fippinger told his colleagues about the DOJ's "School-SPIRIT" initiative, which is similar to but not a part of the federal agency's Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships program, which came to Williamstown two years ago.
 
SPIRIT, which stands for Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together, involves bringing trained facilitators from the DOJ to the schools to lead conversations addressing "tension and conflict related to issues of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability," according to the DOJ website.
 
While stressing that SPIRIT and SPCP are separate programs with different constituencies, Fippinger indicated that the process will be familiar to those who went through the law enforcement program in 2022.
 
"The folks who led that program enjoyed working with the Williamstown community, so they are very open to working with us again," Fippinger said. "There was a three- to six-month planning process to come to a facilitated community conversation to identify what the priorities are and what the needs are.
 
"Part of it is meant to be restorative practice, where we get to identify the problems and try to address the problems by the people who are suffering from the problems, as opposed to some outside group coming in. It's meant to be problem solving from within."
 
Fippinger said he hopes the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee will consider inviting the DOJ to run the program in the district.
 
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