Three candidates in running for Amherst superintendent

STAFF PHOTO

STAFF PHOTO STAFF PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-27-2024 2:43 PM

AMHERST — Three educators, two who work in Massachusetts and the other in the Virgin Islands, are finalists to become the next superintendent for the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools.

The Superintendent Search Committee on Tuesday announced the finalists as Joanne Menard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Holliston; Ericilda Herman, insular superintendent in St. Croix, Virgin Islands; and Susan Gilson, assistant superintendent and middle school principal in the King Philip Regional School District in Wrentham.

Martha Toro, who co-chaired the 19-member Superintendent Search Committee with Amherst School Committee Chairwoman Sarah Marshall, said 10 applications were received, six candidates were interviewed and the committee was instructed to present two to four finalists, based on a directive from the Subcommittee for a New Superintendent. Working with search firm McPherson & Jacobson, a fourth finalist was going to be presented, but that person opted against continuing the process, Toro said.

The three finalists were accepted by unanimous votes of both the Regional and Union 26 committees, the entities that will make the decision on the person to hire. The Regional committee is made up of five Amherst representatives, two Pelham representatives, one Leverett representative and one Shutesbury representative. The Union 26 Committee is made up of three Amherst representatives and three Pelham representatives.

The person hired as the permanent superintendent would succeed Superintendent Michael Morris, who left the district at the end of August after serving as both an interim and permanent superintendent since 2016. Douglas Slaughter has been serving as interim superintendent this school year.

Amherst representative Jennifer Shiao, who has led the Subcommittee for a New Superintendent, said she is excited about the candidates, but noted that Gilson is also one of three people being considered to become the middle school principal. Shiao explained that the search committee didn’t know Gilson was a middle school principal candidate until that was announced publicly. She encouraged Slaughter and the district’s human resources team to keep that process separate.

“I think the superintendent should do what he thinks is best for the middle school, and we will continue our search for the superintendent position,” Shiao said.

The Subcommittee for a New Superintendent is tentatively scheduling finalist visits in April, with Shiao suggesting a two-day visit, with the first day virtual forums for both community and staff and the second day including a morning tour of the four elementary schools in Amherst and Pelham, lunch at the high school, tours of the middle and high schools, Amherst area tours, a meet and greet with the public and then a public interview.

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A decision on the next superintendent could come at the end of April.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.