Island superintendent picked to lead Amherst-Pelham region schools

Ericilda Xiomara Herman,  a St. Croix, Virgin Islands superintendent, on Monday was selected to  be the next superintendent for the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools.

Ericilda Xiomara Herman, a St. Croix, Virgin Islands superintendent, on Monday was selected to be the next superintendent for the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools. AMHERST MEDIA

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-30-2024 9:17 AM

Modified: 04-30-2024 11:23 AM


AMHERST — Ericilda Xiomara Herman, a superintendent of a school district in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, will be the next superintendent for the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools, pending successful contract negotiations.

Citing Herman’s student-centered approach, her extensive leadership experience and her time in a diverse, multilingual society, the Regional and Union 26 committees, which are jointly responsible for hiring the superintendent, on Monday unanimously selected Herman for the position over two Massachusetts school leaders.

Herman will succeed Michael Morris, who left the district at the end of August after serving as both an interim and permanent superintendent since 2016.

“The experience she would bring from having been in St. Croix for so long would be wonderful,” said Amherst representative Sarah Marshall during the 90 minutes of discussion that led to the selection of Herman, the insular (island) superintendent there.

Joanne Menard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Holliston, considered by all as the close runner-up, and Susan Gilson, assistant superintendent and middle school principal in the King Philip Regional School District in Wrentham, were the other finalists brought forward for interviews and visits by the 19-member Superintendent Search Committee.

The search committee received 10 applications, interviewed six candidates and presented the three finalists under the directive from the Subcommittee for a New Superintendent. Working with search firm McPherson & Jacobson, a fourth finalist was going to be presented, but that person opted against continuing the process.

Amherst representative Jennifer Shiao called Herman “student-centered” and observed she was the lone finalist with superintendent experience. In a similar way, Amherst representative Bridget Hynes noted that Herman had grown within the same educational system for a number of years, regularly being promoted as her leadership grew.

Marget Stancer of Pelham, who is on the Union 26 committee, praised Herman’s interview. “I liked that Dr. Herman was concise, her answers didn’t take too long, but were complete,” Stancer said.

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Members also said they appreciated an entry plan Herman submitted that could be enacted upon becoming superintendent, and also pointed to the 112 responses made through an online input form, naming Herman as the best fit for the district.

Choosing Herman was also seen as supportive of families with English language learners, who felt heard during her time in town, Hynes said. Committee Chairwoman Sarahbess Kenney of Pelham recognized that Herman had taken time to talk to students during her visit.

The only caution came from Amherst representative Irv Rhodes, who was on the committee when Alberto Rodriguez was hired as superintendent several years ago. Rodriguez lasted less than a year and never moved to Amherst.

“That was painful. I don’t want to go through that again,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said Menard is comfortable with the Massachusetts systems and feels like “someone who has been there,” adding he had “severe reservations” about Herman, because he wants a superintendent that will provide stability. “Those concerns may not play out, but my anxiety’s there,” he said.

The only other concerns came from Shutesbury representative Anna Heard and Pelham representative William Sherr, who both questioned how Herman will handle LGBTQ and trans issues, and how those communities embrace her.

Most members acknowledged there will be a learning curve for Herman, but it’s up to the School Committee to offer help.

The regional committee is made up of five Amherst representatives, two Pelham representatives, one Leverett representative and one Shutesbury representative. The Union 26 Committee is made up of three Amherst representatives and three Pelham representatives.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.