PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield Public Schools' superintendent opening continues to attract fewer candidates than expected, but the consultant assisting the search committee is optimistic a qualified leader can be hired, based on the resumes of those who have applied.

William Garr, executive vice president of Future Management Systems of Beverly, reported to School Committee members that he expects about 22 candidates will apply, and that 15 had applied as of last week. While the number is lower than the 40 applicants mentioned as a goal at the beginning of this search, the current pool of applicants contains several who are highly qualified, Garr said.

Those include current superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and others in the field. He said he is now assured that the nine-member search committee will have three or four finalist names to submit to the School Committee.

Applications will be accepted through Friday, said School Committee and search committee member Kathleen Amuso. The finalists are expected to be interviewed by the search committee in mid-January. The plan is for a new superintendent to be voted on by the School Committee on Feb. 27.

That person will replace Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, who left the district June 30 and since has taken a job at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Gordon Noseworthy was hired in June as interim superintendent for one year, after a prior superintendent search that produced only nine candidates. In May, the School Committee decided against hiring a finalist submitted by a previous search committee.

The School Committee has since hired the consultant, at a cost of $22,000, and also agreed to offer a salary range of $150,000 to $170,000 for the post, which is $25,000 to $45,000 more than Eberwein was earning.

However, Eberwein did not accept a pay raise above his $125,000 salary during his four years as superintendent.

Asked last week by School Committee member Daniel Elias why a 40-applicant goal previously mentioned has been "downsized," Garr said it appears many superintendents were only recently hired and would not want to move now.

Also, some are located too far from Pittsfield to make a move an easy one, Garr said.

"It is a very thin pool this time," Garr said. He said another superintendent search he was involved with recently in Wellesley -- a high-performing suburban district -- drew only about 16 applicants.

Amuso said she has been on the committee during four superintendent searches and she believes 40 applicants was "an unrealistic" figure. She said "20 would be good and 15 is reasonable."

The screening committee, which will meet with the consultant today to plan its review of applications, will include Amuso, Stearns Elementary School Principal Jean Bednarski, teacher Joseph Maffucio, United Educators of Pittsfield member and teacher Gina Gazzaniga, Central Office staff member Stephanie Case, parent Kellie Meisl, Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz, former Superintendent William Travis, and community leader Van Shields, director of the Berkshire Museum.

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