Friday February 15, 2013

SHEFFIELD -- The School Committee at the Southern Berkshire Regional School District has chosen one of its own to serve as the next superintendent.

David Hastings, the district director of curriculum and professional development, was unanimously voted as the next superintendent on Thursday, beating out three other candidates from outside the district.

While some School Committee members had initially expressed a desire to bring in an outsider and a fresh vision, others said Hastings would provide that leadership while also bringing the community together.

"I think the most effective change will happen with community buy-in," School Committee member Kristen Sparhawk said in supporting Hastings. "I think he has the vision to take us in a different direction than we have been in."

The selection of Hastings concludes a search that began in September 2012, when Superintendent Michael Singleton announced he would retire in August after about five years as head of the district.

The School Committee agreed Hastings would start on July 1, pending contract negotiations. The salary still must be negotiated, but school officials have said the contract is estimated to be worth $140,000.

Earlier in Thursday’s session, School Committee members conducted an interview with candidate Linda Carrier, director of curriculum and instruction at Monson Public School. Other candidates, who already had been interviewed, were Patricia Gardner, principal of Turners Falls High School in the Gill-Montague Regional School District; and Patricia Lally, assistant superintendent of Tewksbury Public Schools.

In a non-binding straw poll to narrow the candidates, Hastings received six votes while Carrier received four votes.

School Committee member Vito Valentini expressed a need for a new vision and initially supported Carrier, as did three other members, including School Committee Chairman Carl Stewart.

"I want someone to come in with fresh eyes and look at [the district] differently," Valentini said.

But in the final vote, the School Committee unanimously backed Hastings.

"I have a sense with David we get more than an individual," said School Committee member Bonnie Silvers. "We get the students, staff, people and educators together for what’s best for the district."

She also said after interviewing his colleagues that she was confident he was not part of any old "Old Boys Network."

Hastings served in the district as a teacher in the ‘70s. After leaving the district for a time, he returned in 2007.

A large crowd of students were present to show their support for Hastings with makeshift signs.

Hastings, who was greeted with handshakes and applause after the vote, said he hoped to tap outside resources when he becomes superintendent.

"We have so many assets that we haven’t tapped into," he said. "We are ready to tap the rich culture, the arts; we are going to take off."