Outgoing Easthampton super seeks to dispel claims over selection of interim chief

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 05-26-2023 11:32 AM

EASTHAMPTON — As the School Committee looks to find a temporary chief to lead the district’s schools, soon-to-be retired Superintendent Allison LeClair sent a note to families this week indicating that her leadership team was ready to work with “whomever” the committee selects as an interim superintendent.

“I think it is important to let everyone know that we are going to put our best foot forward and work with whomever is selected,” LeClair told the Gazette.

In the notice, she stated that she was committed to preparing and collaborating with the interim superintendent selected and has “largely remained neutral through the process for that reason.”

“All the candidates are worthy of our consideration and respect as we undergo this process,” she wrote.

LeClair, who will be retiring at the end of this school year, also looked to quash some misinformation that had been circulating via social media. She said that while many issues cannot be discussed due to rules or procedures, it was important to “shed some light” on some recent themes.

Among the claims she attempted to debunk was that school and district administration was told to withhold comments about candidates in the superintendent search. According to LeClair, it was quite the contrary.

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“We have supported our staff and students’ voices. Staff, students and administration have shared opinions publicly throughout the process at rallies, school committee meetings, meet and greets and written emails,” she wrote in the notice.

As of writing the message, LeClair said that no evidence has been provided to the Easthampton Education Association or her administration to substantiate the accusation that the internal school community was muzzled.

Another claim she shot down was that an internal candidate was part of a “master” plan. Instead, she writes, someone felt it was important to submit their name and application during the posting for the interim candidate.

“Everyone deserves a chance, so let’s not jump to conclusions,” LeClair wrote. “I commend all of the applicants for stepping up. Any of these candidates is walking into a role in which healing and relationship building will be important — please collaborate with them and respect their dedication. I know the administration and staff in the district will do everything they can to support a new leader.”

Throughout the week, the external interim superintendent candidates have been meeting with members of the community. They are Roland R. Joyal Jr., executive director of Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative in West Springfield; Maureen F. Binienda, interim superintendent at Quaboag Regional School District; Marlene A. DiLeo, superintendent at Ware Public Schools; and Mary Jane Rickson, principal of Murdock High School in Winchendon.

At Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, LeClair encouraged families to meet with the candidates.

Kira Henninger, a parent of two fourth grade students at Mountain View School, also encouraged parents to meet with the candidates as she had been one of three people at the meet-and-greet sessions this week.

“I feel like watching the interviews is a really important part (of the process) … but I feel like having a one-to-one conversation gives you a lot more to go off of, and it’s just a different experience,” Henninger said. “I know schedules are tight, especially this time of year, but I hope to see more people over the next couple of days because I think it’s really important for our community and this decision that we’re making.”

Chairperson Cynthia Kwiecinski also noted at the meeting that the date and time of the meet-and-greet session for the internal candidate, Sarah Mochak, would be forthcoming. Mochak is currently the district’s director of special education.

Interviews for all five candidates have been tentatively scheduled to take place June 3-5, with a possible decision on Monday, June 12.

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