Northampton Superintendent Provost lands new job

  • JOHN PROVOST

Staff Writer
Published: 6/3/2022 7:46:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Public schools Superintendent John Provost was offered the top leadership job in the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District on Thursday night, and if he takes it, Northampton will launch a search process to find his replacement.

The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted 7-0 to hire Provost as superintendent with a start date of July 1, and he has accepted, pending the outcome of contract negotiations. The district’s current superintendent, Albert Ganem Jr., is retiring at the end of the month.

“I’d like the students, staff, and families of Northampton to know how deeply I care for them,” Provost, reached by email, said on Friday. “The relationships I’ve formed in Northampton have enriched my life and will continue to do so. Though I will be working in another district, the friends I have made here will remain in my heart.”

Provost was chosen over two other finalists: Marlene DiLeo, superintendent in Ware, and Cynthia Kennedy, the Athol-Royalston Regional School District’s director of intervention and acceleration. All three were finalists last month to lead the Athol district as well, but the job went to Assistant Superintendent Matthew Ehrenworth of Blackstone-Millville.

Provost and DiLeo were also finalists for the top job in Leicester’s school district. That position went to Brett Kustigian, chief of Quaboag Regional Public Schools.

Reacting to the news Friday, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said she wanted to congratulate both Provost and the Hampden-Wilbraham district.

“Their gain is without question Northampton’s loss,” Sciarra said in a written statement, “and we remain grateful to Dr. Provost for eight years serving the Northampton Public Schools with kindness, patience, and integrity and for his wise and visionary stewardship that always centered the students of our district.”

In her role as mayor, Sciarra is chair of the School Committee, which is responsible for hiring the superintendent of public schools. She said the city would “begin planning” the search process immediately.

“I will miss John and I wish him all the recognition and appreciation he very much deserves,” Sciarra said.

Provost’s contract with Northampton extends through June 2025 but can be terminated with notice. He has held the position since 2014 after serving as superintendent in North Brookfield, and he worked as director of special services for Agawam Public Schools from 2003-11.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Westfield State University and both master’s and doctoral degrees in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has also worked as a classroom teacher and special education director in Holyoke.

Speaking before and after the vote to hire Provost, Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee members said they were impressed by his record as superintendent and the testimony of people in Northampton who cited his inclusive and respectful communication style.

Northampton School Committee Vice Chair Gwen Agna agreed that Provost leaving would be “a real loss for the district.”

“He will be hard to replace. He’s done a lot in his eight-year tenure here, unifying the curriculum in all the schools,” Agna said. “I think he’s had a big impact.”

The principal of Jackson Street School for 24 years, Agna worked under Provost from the time he was hired in 2014 until she retired in 2020.

“He’s been very respectful and supportive of administrators over the years, honoring the different styles and approaches that people have” as everyone works together to build a strong district, Agna said.

At the School Committee’s virtual meeting next Thursday at 6:30 p.m., members are expected to discuss the process for finding a new superintendent.

“We will cast our net wide and hope we get the right person to step into his shoes,” Agna said of the eventual search, cautioning that Provost has not yet submitted his resignation. “We’re not going to do anything precipitous at this point.”

An independent investigation of the Northampton High School embedded honors math program, the subject of controversy over its implementation last year, is ongoing but could wrap up before Provost leaves the district. Provost ordered the investigation in response to parent complaints and a student walkout in March, and he said Friday, “My hope is that Attorney [Regina] Ryan’s investigation will be concluded by the end of the current school year.”

The last day of school is June 27.

Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, although located in Northampton, is not part of the public school district and has its own superintendent, Andrew Linkenhoker.

Staff Writer Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com. 

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