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Five finalists interviewed for principal at Crocker Farm School in Amherst

Superintendent Maria Geryk is on the cusp of selecting a new principal for the school, which has been led by two interim co-principals, Derek Shea and Anne Marie Foley, since August.

Last week, five finalists for the position — including Foley — came for day-long visits to the school and attended community forums. There were two forums, which Mazur said were attended by close to 30 people each.

“Each individual brought their uniqueness and skill to their visit,” Mazur said. “We were very lucky to have five highly skilled, desirable finalists.”

Four of the five finalists have served as principals or interim principals. Mazur said the only candidate who has not held the title of principal comes from a large school district where she has had many of the responsibilities of a principal.

Foley taught kindergarten at Crocker Farm for two years and had several years of experience teaching in New York City, where she co-founded a charter prepatory school. She is pursuing a doctorate in education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Another candidate with a connection to the Valley is Sarah Madden, who attended Mount Holyoke College for her undergraduate education. She is principal of Brayton Elementary School, a public school in North Adams. Madden also served as principal of the Hancock Central School in New York, and has over 10 years of experience teaching.

Phyllis Dubina served as principal of the Dolbeare Elementary School in Wakefield and Welch Elementary School in Peabody, both of which are public. Most recently, she was interim principal at the MacArthur Elementary School in South Yarmouth, a school that was ranked a level 3 school — in the bottom 20 percent of schools in Massachusetts — when she begin there and was ranked as a level 1 school by the end of her tenure. Dubina has had experience in administration and as a teacher in school districts across the state.

Two candidates are from out of state, Michelle Tesauro of California and Therese Jilek of Wisconsin. Jilek has been the director of technology and instruction at the Hartland-Lakeside School District in Wisconsin for more than six years. She coordinates technology and the English language learner and gifted and talented programs. Jilek has more than a decade of teaching experience, including as a bilingual teacher.

Tesauro was principal of a public elementary school in the San Bernardino City Unified School District for six years, and vice principal in the same district for 10 years. She has taught in California schools and in New York City, and has a doctorate in urban education and masters and undergraduate degrees in bilingual education.

Isolda Ortega-Bustamante, a member of the screening committee, said that she has gotten a lot of feedback from parents who attended the forums and Tesauro has received strong support.

Ortega-Bustamante, who has a child in the fourth grade at Crocker Farm and works for the Holyoke public schools, said that she was unable to meet Tesauro, but is impressed by her experience leading a multicultural school where she was able to elicit parent involvement.

“We have some real challenges to meet as a community in bringing all our students up to proficiency,” Ortega-Bustamante said. Tesauro’s experience leading a challenging school will help her develop an effective plan to support families at Crocker Farm, she said.

Mary Klaes, another member of the screening committee, said that all of the finalists are qualified, and although she thought some of the candidates stood out, the final decision belongs to Geryk.

Klaes, who has four children at Crocker Farm, commended the administration for leading a process that was open to parent and staff input.

“The superintendent and the human resources director made sure that all stakeholders had a say,” she said.

Shea, who has been assistant principal at Crocker Farm since 2010, said he did not apply for the position because of time constraints. He is an assistant coach at Amherst College and has two young children. He said he will be “happy to return” to his position as assistant principal at Crocker Farm.

The school received 20 initial applications for the job. An 11 member screening committee — which included parents, Crocker Farm staff, Morris and Mazur — selected nine semifinalists.

The five finalists were selected after the semifinalists were interviewed by the screening committee and the superintendent.

Michael Morris, principal from 2008 to 2012, left the post to became the district’s director of evaluation and assessment, a new position.

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