No decision on interim Hampshire Regional District school chief

  • Hampshire Regional High School.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2020 2:55:46 PM

WESTHAMPTON — After 5½ hours of debate, negotiations, presentations and reversals, the five school committees of the Hampshire Regional School District were unable to come to a decision on who to select as the district’s interim superintendent Wednesday night.

“This was absurd. This was a shame,” said Hampshire Regional School Committee member Paul Marcinek, after the committees had failed to select a candidate and the hour approached midnight. The committees plan to try again to settle on a selection at a meeting next Tuesday.

The committees’ indecision came after two candidates were interviewed during the public meeting: William Bazyk, the superintendent of schools for the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union in Arlington, Vermont; and Michael Sullivan, who retired this year as the Gill-Montague Regional School District superintendent.

Former Hampshire Regional Superintendent Aaron Osborne announced his resignation last month, and his last day on the job was Aug. 28.

In a Sept. 2 meeting the school committees voted to empower the principals in the district’s five schools to act as the superintendents for their schools for 60 days.

Bazyk and Sullivan were the two finalists out of 17 applicants for the interim superintendent position as of Wednesday night, although applications remain open for the position. They were selected by a subcommittee with two representatives each from the five school committees in the district: Hampshire Regional School Committee, Southampton’s William E. Norris School Committee, the Williamsburg School Committee, the Westhampton School Committee and the New Hingham Regional School Committee.

The interim superintendent will serve for the remainder of the school year as the school committees begin a search for a long-term superintendent for the sprawling school district. At the beginning of the search process, it was decided that all five school committees would need to agree on a selection.

Bazyk said he was interested in the job on a permanent basis, which some committee members said would hurt the search process for a long-term superintendent.

“I just think it’ll give Bill an unfair advantage,” said Neil Godden, a member of the New Hingham Regional School Committee.

However, Bazyk’s ambition to stay wasn’t seen as a negative by some.

“How often do you get to test drive a superintendent?” said Austin Rogers, a member of the William E. Norris School Committee.

Sullivan’s experience and his intention to only serve as interim schools chief left a good impression with many school committee members.

“I think he has what it takes to get us through this really hard time,” said Ryan Schiff, who serves on the Williamsburg School Committee.

Sullivan’s experience as a coach in the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ New Superintendent Induction Program was also cited as a positive, as was his potential to help find his successor.

“I think he’ll help us look for a long-term superintendent and we’ll be better off in the long run,” Godden said.

However, a major concern with Sullivan’s application was also raised.

Under normal circumstances, his recent retirement would limit the amount of hours he could work at the interim job under state rules. Under the state of emergency issued because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those restrictions would not apply, but if the state of emergency was lifted and Sullivan was unable receive a waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, he would only be able to work in the job for about two months in the new year, Sullivan said.

This was a red flag for a number of school committee members.

“I would hate to have to repeat this exercise early next year just for someone who is an interim,” said Gregory Bennett, who serves on both the Norris and Hampshire Regional school committees.

An initial straw poll of the committees showed that Sullivan had the support of the Westhampton, Williamsburg and Hampshire Regional committees, while Bazyk was supported by Southampton and the members of New Hingham were split.

Much of Wednesday night’s discussion centered on whether an opinion could be secured from DESE on whether Sullivan would be granted a waiver. In another vote toward the end of the meeting, the Southampton committee reversed its position and backed Sullivan by a 3-2 vote. However, the New Hingham committee backed Bazyk by a 3-3 vote after the votes were weighted, preventing the required unanimous  decision.




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