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Hadley taps veteran educator Patricia E. Bell for assistant superintendent

Patricia E. Bell

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Patricia E. Bell of South Deerfield will begin working full time in the district beginning Aug. 1 after transitioning from her position as director of pupil personnel services in the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, a post she’s held the past seven years.

“From my perspective, there are some very simple reasons she was hired,” interim Superintendent Donna Moyer said. “She is very knowledgeable, very experienced and very unflappable. She genuinely cares about kids.”

An experienced special educator, Bell was one of 52 applicants for the newly retitled post of assistant superintendent, which had long been held by the district’s director of student services, Kathleen Boyden. Six candidates were interviewed by two screening committees and two finalists were brought before the School Committee, which ultimately hired Bell. The other finalist was John Salovardos, an educator in the Gardner public schools.

“What resonated with me was her obvious affection and caring for the individual, wanting to have that direct contact with the students and families,” said Molly Keegan, chairwoman of the Hadley School Committee. “For a small town like our community, that for me was the key, that level of caring and wanting to be more hands-on.”

As assistant superintendent, Bell will oversee programming in special education, Title I, Limited English Proficiency and out-of-district placements, as well as nursing and school psychologist and school adjustment counselor services. Moyer said the position will also allow Bell to play an active role in curriculum and professional development.

She will earn an annual salary of $96,500.

Bell said she is looking forward to transitioning to a smaller school district like Hadley’s, which is closer to home and more limited geographically. In her current role in the Mohawk regional district, she travels between seven buildings across hundreds of square miles, she said. “Anybody in my position has the charge of finding what works best for that kid and that family,” Bell said about her role. “People are going to expect me to be pretty accessible to them. That’s something I don’t shy away from.”

She said it’s important for the district to find ways to meet students’ most pressing needs and not be restricted from doing so by financial or professional development constraints. “It’s an important part of finding success for any kid,” Bell said.

Bell spent 10 years as a special education department head and teacher at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield and six years as a special education teacher in the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District. She also has traveled with students to take part in education service projects in countries like Guatemala and Peru during the past decade.

Keegan said Bell has some “big shoes to fill” with the departure of Boyden, but feels confident that Bell is the right fit for Hadley’s schools. “We’re so thrilled about how she presented herself, how she sees her role in the district and with her wealth of knowledge,” Moyer said.

Meantime, Keegan said the School Committee will begin ramping up its search for a new superintendent this summer. A search committee has been assembled and school officials plan to start working on a job description with a time line to begin accepting resumes in the fall. Keegan said the plan is to hire a new superintendent by early 2014. Moyer was hired as an interim superintendent after the departure of former superintendent Nicholas D. Young. The School Committee extended her contract for another year last fall. Moyer is a former superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District in Stockbridge, and during her career has helped school districts during periods of transition.

“We wanted the continuity,” Keegan said. “She (Moyer) fit in so well almost immediately and we thought it made a lot of sense to extend that offer.”

“We didn’t want to feel rushed,” she added. “We want to do this right.”

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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