Thursday March 15, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Nine people have applied to become Pittsfield's next school superintendent, one of whom the School Committee hopes to hire before the school year ends.

Wednesday was the deadline for applicants to submit their resumes to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which will forward them to the local board. The MASC is helping find a successor to Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, who announced two months ago he would leave the post effective June 30 for personal and professional reasons.

A 17-member screening committee will conduct closed-door interviews with the applicants chosen as semifinalists. The yet-to-be named panel will recommend three finalists for the School Committee to question in a public meeting. The committee expects to vote on hiring a new superintendent at its May 23 meeting, according to the timeline adopted at Wednesday night's meeting.

By a 4-2 vote, with members Terry Kinnas and James Conant opposed, the board also selected a salary range of $125,000 to $145,000 to offer the superintendent candidates. Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, a committee member by virtue of his position, was absent, attending a meeting at City Hall.

Currently, Eberwein's annual pay is $125,000, unchanged during his four years on the job; he has refused a pay hike.

"In my opinion, $125,000 is dramatically low," said Chair man Alfred E. "Alf" Bar balunga, who supported the salary range adopted by the panel.

However, Kinnas felt it premature to establish the pay scale, before seeking public input on what city residents, business and community leaders want in a new school boss.

"How can you think of a salary when we don't know what we're looking for?" he said. "It's complete insanity."

By putting a public survey out by April 1 and choosing four community members for the screening committee, the majority of the school board feels it's conducting an open process.

"We are not trying in any way, shape or form to limit public participation," said Katherine Yon.

The rest of the screening committee will consist of the mayor, School Committee members, parents, principals, teachers and most importantly -- according to school board member Daniel C. Elias -- two high school students.

"The biggest stakeholders in this search are the students," Elias said.

Whoever becomes the new superintendent will oversee Berkshire County's largest school district -- with 6,132 students as of Oct. 1 -- and the third-largest employer with nearly 1,200 teachers, administrators and support staff.

The next school boss will replace Eberwein, 46, who began his 17-year career in the Pittsfield Public Schools. He started as a chemistry teacher at Taconic High School, rising through the ranks to become superintendent in July 2008.

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


In search of ...

The screening committee the Pittsfield School Committee will chose to help search for a new school superintendent will consist of 17 people.

  • Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi
  • School Committee members, (2)
  • Student council member each from Pittsfield and Taconic high schools
  • Parents (3)
  • School principals (2)
  • Teachers (3)
  • At-large community members