Smith School names interim superintendent

  • Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Board of Trustees. (From left) Mayor David J. Narkewicz, John E. Cotton, Chairman Michael T. Cahillane, Thomas M. FitzGerald. —Gazette Staff/Stephanie Murray

  • Kevin Farr, the winner of a vote by the Board of Trustees to select an interim superintendent for Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. —Gazette Staff/Stephanie Murray

  • Former Franklin County Regional Vocational  Technical School Superintendent James M. Laverty interviews for an interim superintendent position at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. —Gazette Staff/Stephanie Murray

Published: 7/13/2016 9:24:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School board of trustees voted 3-1 Wednesday to offer Kevin C. Farr the job of interim superintendent for the coming school year.

Farr, a longtime technical school educator, was one of two finalists interviewed by the trustees. Also a candidate was James M. Laverty, former superintendent of Franklin County Regional Vocational Technical School in Turners Falls. The meeting was attended by nine people.

Trustees Chairman Michael T. Cahillane,  John E. Cotton and Thomas M. FitzGerald all voted for Farr. Mayor David J. Narkewicz voted for Laverty, and Northampton School Superintendent John Provost was absent.

The interim superintendent will serve for one year. Later this year, the board will launch a full search to hire a permanent superintendent, Cahillane said.

According to Cahillane, the trustees received 22 applications for the interim position after posting it on job-search website in June.

The board reviewed the applications and ranked them by a point system, Cahillane said. The points were totaled and the three top candidates were invited to the meeting for interviews, according to Cahillane.

During his interview Wednesday, Farr told the trustees he believes “visibility is key” to success. He plans to be a known presence at Smith Vocational, attending sports events, walking through the hallways and supporting students at competitions like Skills USA and the Future Farmers of America convention.

Far said he is skilled at hiring quality educators and likes to promote from within. “I like to raise up folks who have given their lives to the institution,” he added. 

Farr will be appointed interim superintendent at the next trustees meeting Tuesday, pending the successful negotiation of a contract.  A salary has not been determined.

Former superintendent Jeffrey R. Peterson, who resigned in June, earned $114,660 in the last fiscal year.

Farr is currently the superintendent of Killingly Public Schools in Connecticut. Though retired in Massachusetts, Farr can legally take an interim position in the state. He said he plans to resign Thursday from his current position.

Farr worked as the the superintendent of Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Bourne where he retired in 2012 after 33 years. Farr started as a biology/science teacher in 1979 and worked as a lead teacher, assistant principal and principal before becoming superintendent. 

Farr told the trustees he was eager to get back to serving a technical school in his home state.

The trustees also interviewed Laverty, who led the Franklin County school from 2012 to 2015. Lavertytold the trustees he was interested in providing a “smooth transition” to new leadership in the next year.

A third finalist, Frank Llamas, a former Smith Vocational superintendent, was unable to attend the meeting due to a vacation, according to Cahillane.

The search began when Peterson announced his resignation  June 21 to take a job as the principal director at William J. Dean Technical High School in Holyoke starting July 1. Peterson told the Gazette in June the position to turn around a struggling school was an opportunity he could not turn down.

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