BARRE — A committee just pumped the brakes on Barre’s search for a new superintendent, but not very hard.
Despite a short list of candidates that is a little bit longer than she initially reported, Human Resources Director Carol Marold said preliminary plans to potentially offer the job by the end of the year were deemed unrealistic by the committee that met for the first time on Monday.
Heading into the holiday season, Marold said committee members agreed not to rush their work and see some value in the process extending into January.
Some of that, Marold said, has to do with uncertainty about whether the committee believes a second round of interviews will be needed and the prospect of getting meaningful turnout for virtual and staff forums with finalists was also a factor.
Marold, who was chosen to serve as chair of the 15-member committee, said the panel accomplished its primary objective — setting a schedule. It is one, she said, all of them can keep and contemplates the first round of interviews being wrapped up by mid-December.
Marold, who initially indicated there were seven applicants for the superintendent’s job said there are actually nine — two less than the district received when it advertised the position as part of a separate search last year.
Interim Superintendent Chris Hennessey has confirmed he is among the applicants. That is consistent with his prior public statements.
Marold said the committee isn’t scheduled to meet again until Dec. 8. That, she said, is when members of the diverse group, which includes a mix of board members, administrators, faculty, parents, students and community members, is expected to determine how many of the applicants to interview and refine questions each will be asked.
The committee plans to conduct its first round of interviews on Dec. 13 and members have left open the door for a second round of interviews on Dec. 15.
Barring some unforeseen problem, Marold said that is when the committee is hoping to recommend one or more finalists to the School Board for its consideration.
Instead of rushing that portion of the process, the committee, which includes three School Board members, agreed to suspend the search process until after the holiday season.
Tentative plans call for those who make it past the screening process to attend separate forums with school staff and community members during the second week of January and be interviewed by the School Board the following week.
That’s when Marold expects a final decision and, absent a surprise, a job offer will be made.
Marold said the schedule is built to absorb a surprise. If a job offer is rejected or if the board decides it isn’t satisfied with the finalists and opts to to re-launch the search there is time to do that and still fill the position by the July 1, 2022, start date.
With Hennessey in the mix that would seem like a remote possibility. He is a known commodity in the district, having served in a variety of capacities over the years — most recently as co-principal at Barre City Elementary and Middle School.
Hennessey left that job to step in as superintendent on an interim basis after the abrupt resignation of David Wells earlier this year. He has expressed his desire to remain in the position long term and unless he has a change of heart in the next few weeks, isn’t viewed as a viable candidate by the committee or ultimately the board, he would seem like a safe choice absent a superior candidate.
Three of the board’s nine members are on the committee, including Chair Sonya Spaulding and School Directors Gina Akley and Sarah Pregent. One principal from each of the district’s three schools are members of the committee. That includes Brenda Waterhouse, principal of Spaulding High School, Erica Pearson, co-principal at Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, and Pierre Laflamme, who was promoted to co-principal at Barre City Elementary and Middle School to fill the void created when Hennessey took over as interim superintendent.
Marold, Josh Allen, the district’s communications director, and Facilities Director Jamie Evans are representing the central office. Faculty and staff are represented on the committee by Ben Matthews, president of the Barre Education Association, and the union’s vice president Rachel Van Vliet.
The committee also includes a parent — Giuliano Cecchinelli — who lives in Barre, a community member — Terry Reil — who lives in Barre Town and two Spaulding students — Grace Isham and Ronald Saldi.