Easthampton superintendent candidate withdraws after students raise objections

  • Superintendent finalist Erica Faginski-Stark. GAZETTE file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2023 8:25:42 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Superintendent finalist Erica Faginski-Stark has withdrawn her candidacy after city students voiced concerns about the Ludlow educator to Mayor Nicole LaChapelle.

The mayor, a member of the School Committee, told the Gazette that students sent a letter this week to the mayor’s office highlighting concerns with Faginski-Stark, but did not go into details as to what those concerns were.

LaChapelle said she had responded to the letter saying it was a matter she would be looking into “immediately” and reached out to School Committee Chairperson Cynthia Kwiecinski.

Thursday night, Kwiecinski contacted Faginski-Stark about the concerns raised by students and indicated that the committee would be investigating the matter further.

Negotiations between the School Committee and Faginski-Stark were slated to take place Friday afternoon, but were subsequently canceled after the candidate withdrew, according to LaChapelle.

Faginski-Stark, the current director of curriculum and instruction at Ludlow Public Schools, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

An email signed by Kwiecinski was distributed from current Easthampton Superintendent Allison  LeClair’s email address Friday afternoon to the parents and employees in the school district that stated Faginski-Stark had withdrawn her name as a candidate for superintendent. The email also stated that the next steps would be discussed at a coming School Committee meeting.

“The committee will detail what the plan is going forward at the next meeting,” LaChapelle said.

The next meeting will be held virtually and is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, April 25 at 6 p.m.

The committee offered the job to Faginski-Stark, pending contract negotiations, on Monday night following a heated discussion before a virtual audience of nearly 1,000 people.

They reached the decision more than two weeks after initially offering the job to finalist Vito Perrone and about 10 days after rescinding that offer.

The committee’s search for a new superintendent gained national and international attention after Perrone indicated that the reason the committee retracted its offer to him was because he had addressed Kwiecinski and Suzanne Colby, executive assistant to the committee, as “Ladies” in an email.

Kwiecinski has since told the Gazette that while she did take issue with Perrone’s familiarity in the email correspondence that was part of a salary negotiation, she noted that more went into the decision to rescind the job offer.

Before this Monday’s virtual meeting, Perrone’s attorney, James B. Winston, submitted a letter to the School Committee reiterating Perrone’s interest in becoming the superintendent of the city’s schools.

Winston said in an interview with the Gazette on Friday that he asked the committee reinstate the offer to Perrone and, alternatively, slow the process down. However, there was no response.

Still, Winston is hopeful that there is a way to get “back on track.”

“I mean, there may be some hurt feelings, maybe on both sides right now, but as a lawyer, I’ve seen stranger things,” he said. “Perhaps given what we just found today with the other candidate that was offered the job withdrawing her name, maybe there is that opportunity.”

To this point, other than the verbal rescinding of the offer at a March 30 executive session and a subsequent letter dated March 31 from the committee, Perrone said he has not received any other communication from the committee.

“So I don’t know if things could be fixed, but from my perspective, because of the outpouring of support from the community, I would be a fool to walk away without even attempting to put my hand out,” Perrone said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.


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