Hopkins Principal Brian Beck lands ands Gill-Montague superintendent job

  • Hopkins Academy Principal Brian Beck  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/26/2020 9:37:37 AM

MONTAGUE — Brian Beck, principal of Hopkins Academy in Hadley, has been chosen to replace Michael Sullivan as superintendent of the Gill-Montague Regional School District.

Beck is a Montague resident. Before starting work at Hopkins Academy, he had been principal of Athol High School and previously worked as an assistant principal and principal at Mohawk Trail Regional School.

“I feel like I’m ready for the superintendency,” Beck said. “I feel like I now have the skills to be of service to the school district.”

Beck was one of three candidates interviewed Monday night by the Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee in a videoconference meeting. The committee also interviewed Karen Ferrandino,  the director of student services at Frontier Regional and Union 38 school districts, and Mary Jane Rickson, the interim superintendent of Maynard Public Schools. Each interview lasted about an hour.

The three candidates had been chosen from a larger pool of initial applicants reviewed confidentially by a separate screening committee. The screening committee chose six to interview and narrowed the pool to three candidates to be interviewed publicly by the School Committee.

The interviews were technically public, even though the School Committee’s normal meeting format changed after Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law out of concern over the spread of COVID-19. Recordings of the vide conferences were available online by Tuesday morning, and School Committee members were accepting comments from the public Tuesday.

There was some concern among the public, committee members said during deliberations Tuesday night, that the process was being rushed, and that the timeline should have been extended to work around the public health crisis.

But School Committee members agreed that hiring a superintendent now, before the current superintendent retires at the end of June, was important, and that delaying would put the district in an uncertain position.

They also agreed that, by delaying, the district would likely lose the three highly qualified candidates who had just been interviewed. Committee members noted all three candidates’ diverse experiences in education, their understanding of social equity issues, and their reputations for maintaining good relationships with staff, parents and members of the larger school community.

Beck stood out, however, for his record at Athol High School, his nuanced understanding of restorative justice and the likelihood that, as a Montague resident, he would understand the community more deeply than others, committee members said. After deliberations, Beck was the first choice of seven of the nine committee members.

Beck was offered the position by phone Tuesday night. His answer, as quoted by the School Committee’s consultant Tracy Novick, was, “Unequivocally yes.”

“Well, that’s a good place to start,” said School Committee Chair Jane Oakes.

Beck starts July 1, pending contract negotiations.

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