BARRE — The Barre Unified School Board isn’t wasting any time in its search for an interim replacement for soon-to-be-departing Superintendent David Wells.
Days after Wells announced late last month that he and the board had concluded it would be “in the best interests of the community” that he step down at the end of June, the position was posted May 1. The deadline for interested applicants — there were 10 — was last Thursday and board members, who discussed the search during virtual executive session held at the end of their meeting that night, narrowed the field to four semifinalists over the weekend.
Don’t expect a break in that brisk pace, because a committee that didn’t exist on Friday had been assembled by Monday morning and virtual interviews with at least three of the four semifinalists will be conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
The committee, which includes a teacher, a para-educator, a parent, a building-based administrator, and a central office representative, will be led by Human Resources Director Carol Marold.
Marold said Monday the hastily recruited committee would conduct interviews and recommend candidates to the School Board, which plans to interview the finalists next Tuesday and Wednesday, discuss the results when it meets in executive session a week from Thursday and be in a position to make a job offer the following morning — May 28.
Heading into the weekend Board Chairwoman Sonya Spaulding said that was the timeline, though some of the dates and the composition of the committee hadn’t been nailed down at that point.
“The goal is to hire by the end of May,” she said.
With Wells leaving on June 30, Spaulding said that would create an opportunity for some administrative overlap — easing the transition to the person selected to take over as superintendent on July 1.
Whoever is hired will come on board with the understanding that it will be a one-year arrangement. That is how the position was advertised and, given the tight time frame, Spaulding said that is the board’s intent.
Though nothing would preclude the chosen candidate from applying for the longer term positions, Spaulding said she expected to board would launch a more thorough and inclusive process later this year with an eye toward making a job offer early next year.
That wasn’t an option with respect to choosing an interim candidate. Spaulding said board members were interested in obtaining input from “stakeholders” meaning the committee’s role will necessarily be limited to conducting a first round of interviews and making a recommendation to the board.
Speaking on behalf of the Barre Education Association, Rachel Van Vliet, a special educator at Barre Town Middle and Elementary and Middle School, urged the board to include the union and other community stakeholders, in the hiring process.
“The selection of a superintendent, interim or otherwise, should not be made by an isolated group acting without full understanding of the many parts of this unified union,” she said.
Spaulding said the creation of the committee was a good-faith attempt to respond to Van Vliet’s request without deviating from the board’s timeline.
Marold said Monday, committee members have been identified and have agreed to serve and three of the four semi-finalists — all from Vermont — had been contacted. She said she hadn’t yet reached the fourth candidate who was short-listed by the board as part of its weekend assignment.
The board is not represented on the committee, but narrowed the field before asking for recommendations and conducting interviews of its own.
While the committee will conduct its interviews remotely, Spaulding didn’t close the door on in-person interviews by the board next week.
Whoever is hired will be tasked with implementing a COVID recovery plan that is now in the process of being finalized and will likely take over the helm of the two-town, three-school district the day after the teachers contract expires.
The current contract runs through June 30 and while negotiating teams for the district and the union met last week to establish ground rules and set dates for four bargaining sessions, they haven’t yet exchanged proposals and the district is still without a budget.
Last week, the board tentatively agreed to warn a special election at which voters from Barre and Barre Town will be given a third chance to approve a twice-defeated budget for June 9 — a Wednesday. The board is expected to finalize the warning for the budget re-vote during a special meeting Thursday.