They are collectively very capable, but if the members of the School Committee sometimes have that deer-in-headlights look, then who's to blame them? Not me, and not you.
The governing body is both searching for a new superintendent and trying to plot the future of Taconic High School. Those are the two line items at the top of their to-do list.
The quest for a new superintendent and the reshaping of Taconic are obviously intertwined. To that end, when a new city school leader is finally selected at the end of the month, it will be the third superintendent within a two-year period to have their fingerprints put upon the Taconic project.
That list already includes Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, who stepped down in June 2011, and Gordon Noseworthy, the current and interim superintendent who has admirably filled in during his contracted year and carried the ball aggressively forward despite the "interim" tag.
On that note, the School Committee has moved slowly along while trying to put a new vocational face on the Valentine Road campus. Don't blame them for taking their time. As they put together the difficult puzzle that will ultimately be the new vocational agenda at the school, fact-gathering has been incredibly important. Sifting through the information requires time and thought. It ain't easy. Questions, it seems, beget more questions.
And, trying to fit a new superintendent into the process when the process is this far along? Did I say it ain't easy?
Noseworthy, meanwhile, is trying to nudge the School Committee to the finish line. He's been understandably patient, but at the same time reminds the board often that sooner or later it must present an agenda to the state. Designers of the "new" Taconic need some kind of blueprint to work from and the state won't sign off on its financial share of the project until matters become a bit more cemented.
Big decisions and tough choices? Absolutely. But, sooner than later you have to let that canary out of the cage and allow it to spread its wings. Neither Noseworthy nor the board need to suffer the slings and arrows of criticism. Not at this point. But the rubber has to hit the road soon. And when it does, the foot comes off the brakes.
At that point, we all will cross our fingers and hope for the best.
The superintendent search has been, at the least, tedious. Again, showing their cautious side, the school board chose to go with an interim leader rather than take a knee-jerk approach and hire for the sake of hiring.
The three finalists have all been interviewed and a decision awaits. Pitchers and catchers and superintendents. It's that time of year.
The board whittled an original list down to this trio. We'll see how it goes, but all have, at the least, interesting histories. Ann Bradshaw, who has been in charge of the Mashpee Public Schools for eight years, has endured some ups and downs on that job.
She had pretty much locked up the top slot in the Norton school district this past April, but the school board took its offer off the table when negotiations over the compensation package broke down. Bradshaw also took a PR hit when her administration failed to promptly report to police an incident involving a student who had been seen on the high school campus with a "realistic" Airsoft handgun. The gun looks real, but shoots "harmless plastic pellets."
This was reported by the Cape Cod Times, which quoted Bradshaw as saying this during the Norton interview process: "I guess one of the biggest things I've learned is that because I don't think it's a credible threat doesn't mean that others don't think it's a credible threat."
The Cape Cod newspaper also reported she had previously viewed an incident in 2005 when an elementary student yelled out that he "wanted to kill everyone" also as not a real threat.
Bradshaw is lobbying for a six-year contract, but I don't see this city board going that route. The guy in the White House gets four and Daniel Bianchi, our mayor, gets two. Her current salary is a bit more than $150,000, while Eberwein stepped down at an annual salary of $125,000, although he did refuse pay raises during his tenure.
William Hart is the assistant superintendent in the Pentucket Regional School District and is looking to ride in his first real rodeo. He was a finalist a year ago in the Framingham school district and has thrown his hat into the Pittsfield ring this year. Again, good résumé. The question of bringing someone on without the experience at the top doesn't seem to warrant close evaluation in this career choice.
Eberwein went from teacher/coach at Taconic to principal at Pittsfield High to deputy superintendent to the leading man without seemingly missing a heartbeat. So, it can be done.
Then there's Jason "Jake" McCandless, the current school leader in Lee. He lives in Pittsfield and his children are in our city schools. McCandless is also looking to stay in the Pittsfield school system for at least a decade, and that interview rhetoric carries a little more weight when you already live in the district. Back-to-back "Jakes"? Maybe, we'll see.
School boards, though, sometime like to rotate the selection process between a local entry and out-of-area candidate. Eberwein was local, so
Then again, we could always inquire as to Mr. Noseworthy's future plans, but we know he only committed to the interim gig. Sorry, Gordon. It was just a fleeting thought. A sincere thought, but a fleeting one nonetheless.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.