Divided Belchertown School Committee reopens search for superintendent

Wednesday, April 09, 2014
BELCHERTOWN — A divided school committee voted Tuesday night to reopen the search for a new superintendent of schools with a goal of permanently filling the job by next January.

A motion to consider offering the position to one of the two remaining candidates after top choice John A. Provost declined their offer was defeated 3-2. Provost, who lives in Easthampton, instead accepted the superintendent’s job in Northampton.

In the meantime, Belchertown will hire an interim superintendent from among a list of retired superintendents that will be provided by their consultant, Patricia Correira of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

Committee member Richard Fritsch made an impassioned plea to consider offering the job to either Lynn Ann Clark of Belchertown or Timothy Lee of Great Barrington, the other two finalists who were interviewed. Fritsch cited the time and effort the district had put into the search and pointed out that the screening committee had rated the top three candidates equally.

“If we chose an interim it would be detrimental to our schools,” he said.

Committee member Myndi Bogdanovich joined him in voting to consider the remaining finalists.

Committee chairwoman Linda Tsoumas and members Clare Popowich and Michael Knapp voted against considering the other two finalists.

“If someone proposes marriage and they are declined, do they go to the last person they dated?” asked Tsoumas.

Popowich said she was not impressed by either of the other two finalists. Provost “was the only candidate that I wanted,” she said.

Knapp agreed, saying, “I don’t think the two remaining candidates were right.”

The committee set an Aug. 1 deadline for applications in the new search for a superintendent to replace Judith Houle who is stepping down when her contract expires at the end of June. They also discussed raising the high end of the salary range for the position to as much as $150,000, but did not take a vote. The annual salary as been advertised at between $120,000 and $135,000.

Tsoumas said the screening committee involved in the search that just concluded has not been dissolved and she hopes members will be available to review a new set of applicants. The goal is to have site visits in September and do final interviews and make an offer in October.