Jackson Street School principal finalists drop out after visit

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2019 3:21:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The search to find the successor to longtime Jackson Street School Principal Gwen Agna will go on. 

The pool had been narrowed down to MaryAnn Bartlett, a fifth grade teacher and assistant director of middle school programs at the Nantucket Lighthouse School, and Walter Huston, principal at the Barnard School in South Hampton, New Hampshire. 

But both candidates for the job withdrew Tuesday — the day after they spoke at a public forum and met with people at the school. 

“After visiting the school Monday night, I felt it wasn’t quite the right fit,” Huston said. “I got that mutual feeling that it wouldn’t quite be the right fit.” 

The Gazette was not able to reach Bartlett for comment on Friday, and Superintendent John Provost declined to comment on why the candidates dropped out.

The next steps in the search process are not clear. “I’m just taking some time to regroup right now,” Provost said. 

“I can tell you that I will not consider any of the other candidates who were not forwarded by the search committee,” he said. “I’m in the process of weighing my options, really.”

The committee forwarded the two candidates, Bartlett and Huston, from a pool of 15, Provost said. 

Fifteen applications, Provost said, is “about average." Nineteen people applied for the high school position and 17 people applied last spring for the position of Leeds Elementary School principal.

Advertising for the Jackson Street principal job included postings in a Spanish-language newspaper; on state, national and international educator job sites; and “direct person-to-person contact with the deans of 19 historically black colleges and universities,” Provost said.

The announcement comes days after the principal search at Northampton High School was suspended because of a complaint by a search committee member alleging that the group improperly screened candidates. 

The school district hired an independent law firm, Stoneman, Chandler & Miller, to investigate. 

“I still do not have a timeline for the end of that process,” Provost said. “I can tell you that I have submitted the documentation from the search process to the investigator and we had some initial conversation.” 

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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