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Belchertown seeking public’s advice in search for new school superintendent

BELCHERTOWN — The School Committee is launching its search for a new superintendent by seeking advice on what type of school leader it wants with an online survey and a series of public meetings.

The survey is posted on the school district’s website www.belchertownps.org and the first focus group is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Belchertown High School cafeteria. For some of the meetings planned, the School Committee is targeting select participants, and those are listed on the website, committee chairwoman Linda Tsoumas said in an email.

Superintendent Judith Houle announced in August that she will leave her post at the end of the school year amid criticism of her performance by some community members. Her resignation came at the beginning of a meeting set by the School Committee to consider extending her contract which expires in June and prompted praise for her work and regret for her decision by Tsoumas and vice chairman Clare Popowich. Houle, who has been superintendent here since 2009, has said she is pursuing other career options.

A press release issued by the school district urges residents to complete the anonymous survey by Dec. 6.

“The position of superintendent, as the educational leader for our schools, is an important position for any community,” the statement says. “The committee believes this effort will be greatly enhanced by hearing from members of the community and we value your thoughts on the qualities you think are important for the next superintendent to possess.”

In addition to next week’s public meeting, there will be five other session held in October. Those interested in attending are advised to check the School Department’s website for dates and times.

Tsoumas said that the School Committee has hired the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to guide the search. In addition to the survey and the public meetings, the position will be advertised nationally and regionally, Tsoumas said. The School Committee expects to hire a new superintendent by April with a start date of July 1, she said.

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