Hampshire Regional School District names interim superintendent


Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2020 7:03:29 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Michael Sullivan, a Florence resident and the former superintendent of the Gill-Montague Regional School District, was offered the position of interim superintendent for the Hampshire Regional School District on Tuesday evening.

“I’m happy that we’re moving forward as a group,” said Brigid O’Riordan, chairwoman of the Westhampton School Committee.

The decision followed a 5½-hour meeting on Sept. 16, where the five school committees in the district were not able to agree on one candidate. Sullivan and William Bazyk, the superintendent of schools for the Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union in Arlington, Vermont, were interviewed for the job during that meeting.

The school committees that are part of the Hampshire Regional School District are the 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 district serves the communities of Westhampton, Williamsburg, Southampton, Chesterfield and Goshen, with the town of Worthington sending its high school and middle school students there as well.

The district is searching for an interim superintendent because of the resignation of Aaron Osborne, who had his last day on the job as superintendent on Aug. 28.

Bazyk withdrew his name from consideration for the interim position the day after the Sept. 16 meeting. Sullivan was subsequently offered the job after all five committees voted in favor of hiring him.

O’Riordan said that she had been “cautiously optimistic” that Sullivan would be approved at Tuesday’s meeting and is happy with the results.

The school committees are waiting on the legal review of the contract that was agreed upon in an executive session on Tuesday before presenting it to Sullivan. However, Sullivan told the Gazette that he intends to take the job, which will run for the remainder of the school year.

“I am fully confident we’ll get a contract worked out very very soon,” he said.

Prior to his retirement this year from the Gill-Montague Regional School District, where he served as superintendent for seven years, Sullivan worked in Longmeadow, first as a middle school principal and then as an assistant superintendent. He also taught at JFK Middle School for 14 years and was an assistant principal at Northampton High School for two years.

Sullivan started teaching in 1988, and he worked as a teacher for 16 years.

“Having been a teacher for a long time was spectacularly helpful in being an administrator,” Sullivan said.

Don Willard, chairman of the New Hingham Regional School Committee, was a strong supporter of Bazyk at the previous vote but said in an interview that he thought Sullivan and Bazyk were “both great choices.”

“When Bill withdrew it was really easy to endorse Michael,” he said.

In Bazyk’s withdrawal letter, he said that Sullivan would be the best candidate to bridge the gap between an interim and a permanent superintendent.

“My career objective is to secure a superintendent appointment for a significant tenure,” Bazyk wrote. “However, I am not sure if coming in as the interim to become the permanent superintendent is what the district is seeking.”

Bazyk said he intended to apply for the long-term position, and that as a candidate he would appreciate Sullivan’s willingness to be a resource. Sullivan currently serves as a coach in the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ New Superintendent Induction Program.

The chief concern raised about Sullivan in the Sept. 16 meeting revolved around state regulations surrounding the amount of money he could make as a recent retiree. He retired from the Gill-Montague Regional School District this year. While Bazyk can take the job because of the current COVID-19 state of emergency, if the state of emergency is not extended into next year and if a waiver isn’t secured from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, it appeared last week that Sullivan would only be able to serve as interim for about two months into 2021.

O’Riordan said, however, that based on conversations between the search subcommittee for the interim superintendent and legal counsel that Sullivan could make more money than he initially thought under the regulations, thus resulting in an increased number of days that he could work. It was also determined that the number of days could be spread out, and O’Riordan said that it appears possible that Sullivan could finish the school year even without the state of emergency being extended or a waiver being granted.

Sullivan said he has a good understanding of how regional school districts work, and that he sees his role as helping the five school districts clarify how they want to operate going forward. He said that he chose to come out of retirement to take the interim position in part because he and his wife had intended to travel this fall, and COVID-19 put a stop to those plans.

“I think it’s a really good fit,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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