PITTSFIELD -- The city's School Committee has awarded an unprecedented five-year contract to incoming school superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.
By a 6-1 vote, with Daniel C. Elias opposed, the school board on Wednesday agreed to the long-term deal -- with a starting annual salary of $157,000 -- because it felt McCandless has shown he will be committed to the local school system. Traditionally, the city school board has hired superintendents three years at a time.
"I'm very optimistic and confident we'll look back and find that five years was never an issue," said committee member Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.
At his present job as Lee Public Schools superintendent, McCandless makes a little more than $100,000.
"I'm very honored the committee was able to think outside what previously has been done in Pittsfield," McCandless said after the vote.
If McCandless serves out the entire five years, he'll have the longest superintendency in Pittsfield since William Travis held the position from July 1, 1998, to June 30, 2005.
McCandless was hired a month ago to lead the 6,000-student Pittsfield Public schools. His official start date is July 1. He replaces Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, who left in June 30, 2012, to accept a position at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. McCandless is wrapping up eight years as the superintendent in the Lee Public Schools.
Gordon Noseworthy is serving as interim superintendent until June 30. An earlier superintendent search ended unsuccessfully in May, and a second search -- utilizing a search consultant -- began last summer.
Several committee members had reservations about a five-year contract, especially Elias, who philosophically opposed its length and salary, but not the man receiving the deal.
"I'm very confident [in] and supportive of Mr. McCandless," said the committee's senior member.
Committeeman Terry Kinnas pointed out the agreement isn't a guaranteed five years because the superintendent is subject to an annual performance evaluation.
"The School Committee still has the option to terminate the contract," Kinnas noted.
McCandless, 42, was one of three finalists for the job from a pool of 18 applicants. During his interview before the school board in February, he said the next superintendent and the city school system need a longer lasting relationship -- a position he reaffirmed on Wednesday night.
"Long-term improvements take a long time," McCandless said. "Pittsfield also has a lot to offer the rest of the county and we have a lot to learn from other school districts, too."
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