PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Superintendent of Schools Jason "Jake" McCandless is actively seeking new opportunities and may leave the Pittsfield Public Schools.
After McCandless' evaluation by the School Committee on Wednesday, he confirmed that he is a finalist for the superintendent's position of the Silver Lake Regional School District in Kingston, just north of Plymouth.
"It simply feels in my gut like it is a good time to make a change," McCandless said.
McCandless came to Pittsfield in 2013 after being in Lee for 11 years, eight of those as superintendent and three as principal. He came to Lee after three years as an assistant principal in Virginia.
He signed a six-year contract in 2015, setting his salary at $157,000. The Silver Lake post would pay between $170,000 and $190,000 and the selected candidate would be expected to begin when the current superintendent retires at the end of January. Silver Lake has about 1,800 students compared to Pittsfield's 5,400.
"There are hundreds of things I will miss about Pittsfield and the Pittsfield Public Schools," the superintendent said on Thursday. "The wonderful people who make things work in the city and county and our students are an honor and privilege to serve as are their families."
He went on to praise the School Committee, the staff, city leaders, and the larger community that has supported him through the years.
"We have dedicated employees across the entire organizational chart and wonderful families who trust us with their treasure each day," McCandless said. "Our city government takes education seriously, and our whole county works together in extraordinary ways. Serving Lee, Tyringham, and Pittsfield has been a gift to me and our family.
"I will miss so much. I could go on, and talk myself out of this altogether."
McCandless said if not selected he and his family will re-evaluate their options. He said remaining in Pittsfield is not out of the question.
"If this opportunity does not work out, our family will evaluate our options and see," he said. "Staying here and continuing to serve is an excellent scenario, so we will see."
During his evaluation, the entire School Committee lauded his efforts over the years and all gave him marks of "exemplary" and "proficient."
Member Daniel Elias said he was astounded by his work ethic and dedication and member Joshua Cutler applauded his leadership especially during the school building project and rough budgetary times.
"His leadership comes at a critical time in Berkshire County as we face population decline, demographic shifts, and a lack of growth in resources that has dictated difficult decisions."
Members William Cameron and Dennis Powell thanked McCandless for his efforts to create a tolerant and inclusive environment in the school system. Powell said when he was the president of the NAACP, McCandless was completely receptive to all their concerns.
"These are difficult times and it is very difficult to change behavior and change mindsets," Powell said. "He did not give up on that ... he understands what it takes to make change."
Mayor Linda Tyer also had good things to say about McCandless and said he is a great communicator and advocate for students.
"Pittsfield is beyond fortunate to have Dr. McCandless leading our school community," she said. "He confronts challenges head-on and with passion and celebrates outstanding staff and student performances."