Wednesday January 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- School Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III is stepping down from his post in six months, a decision he says is personally and professionally -- not politically -- motivated.

Late this afternoon, Eberwein confirmed to The Eagle that he will resign from the Pittsfield Public Schools’ top job effective June 30.

Superintendent since 2008, the Dalton native and graduate of Wahconah Regional High School, said he has notified the School Committee and its new chairman, Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and the City Council.

He emphasized that the changing of the guard on the school board and at City Hall had nothing to do with his resignation.

"The two things are not linked," he said. "The timing is unfortunate."

Eberwein, 46, said he isn’t sure what his professional future will hold. He said he’ll remain focused on his current job.

"I’ve got six more months of hard work ahead, like putting together a new budget," he said. "I want to ensure to leave the schools in the best situation possible for the next superintendent."

Eberwein noted that his contract with the School Committee requires him annually to notify the seven-member panel if he plans to return for another school year. The notification must be given at least six months before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.

In October, Eberwein signed a new three-year deal with the school board, retroactive to July 1.


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However, he had asked for a one-year extension of his previous contract because he had already contemplated leaving the position.

"I did a lot of soul searching over the summer to strike a balance between my professional and personal life," he said.

Eberwein is married with five children ranging from twin second-graders to a daughter who is a high school senior. He has been employed by the Pittsfield Public Schools since 1995, starting as a chemistry teacher at Taconic High School. He became principal of Pittsfield High School in 2003. Four years later, he was elevated to deputy superintendent. He became superintendent on July 1, 2008.

Barbalunga said a search for Eberwein’s successor will begin immediately.

"I asked him if we could change his mind, he said, ‘No,’ " Barbalunga said.

School Committee member and former chairwoman Kathleen A. Amuso said she was stunned by the news, but understood why Eberwein is giving up the $125,000-a-year job.

"I think his leaving is a tremendous loss for the school system," Amuso said. "But I understand he’s worked so many hours and he wants to give back to his family."

Amuso praised Eberwein for helping improve the city schools, which have seen a steady decline in the dropout rate and a rise in the graduation rate at Pittsfield and Taconic high schools the last 31Ž2 years.

In addition, he has been a champion for at-risk students by convincing the School Committee and City Council two years ago to fund the Juvenile Resource Center, initially funded through the Berkshire Sheriff’s office.

"He brought the school system to a level I never thought it would be," said Amuso.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.