PITTSFIELD -- Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless, beginning his tenure at the helm of Pittsfield Public Schools, says he believes the district is open to vigorous leadership from the superintendent's office toward its educational goals.
"I am very pleased to be here," McCandless said during a recent meeting at which he was welcomed by the School Committee. "I can think of no higher honor."
The new superintendent called the city "a welcoming community and a community that gets behind the students."
McCandless was hired in March with a five-year contract and began July 1. He had been superintendent in Lee schools for eight years and is a resident of Pittsfield with children in city schools.
Board member Katherine Yon said she looks forward to the school system "being very stable going forward," after turnover in the superintendent's post in recent years.
After his first weeks as superintendent, McCandless' active leadership has been "what we hoped for when we hired you," said committee Chairman Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga.
McCandless also thanked committee members, staff and former interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy for helping him during the transition to his new position.
And he promised a strong effort to bring in more minority staff members "to better mirror our student body and our community."
He pledged to work with the Berkshire County NAACP chapter -- which has called for the hiring of more African-American teachers and staff members in the school system, citing low numbers that do not reflect the minority population here.
"I am excited to have the NAACP as a partner," McCandless said, adding that "this work will not be easy and I do not expect this work will be quick."
Committee member Daniel Elias asked McCandless to work to improve communication with the City Council, in part through meetings during the year to discuss budgetary issues and projections. And he called for an earlier start to the annual budget preparation process.
The committee also approved a personnel report that included the hiring of Henry Duval, assistant principal at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School, as vice principal at Pittsfield High School.
Duval, 48, a 12-year veteran of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, previously taught social studies at Taconic High School for six years. He will begin Aug. 1 at PHS, with a starting salary of $82,331.