LENOX -- In a surprise move, the Northampton School Committee has voted to reopen its search for a superintendent, bypassing Morris Elementary School Principal Timothy Lee and two other finalists.
Explaining their 9-1 decision Monday night, board members described the three as strong candidates, but lacking the specific experience needed.
The committee decided the 2,700-student public school district needs a leader who has served as a superintendent elsewhere, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Northampton School Committee member Michael Flynn, explaining his vote against any of the finalists, said that while "they are really good at what they do, I don’t know that I felt they are ready for this position. We have a unique district in that there are a lot of needs here. We need a little bit more."
High turnover has led to six superintendents in the past 13 years in the city; the committee will be conducting its third search in the past two years.
The district includes four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.
"I’m sad for Tim, because he’s going to make a great superintendent and everybody has to start somewhere," said Lenox Schools Superintendent Edward W. Costa II of his principal as a candidate. "Apparently, it wasn’t in the writing for Northampton."
"But I don’t think that will stop Tim," Costa predicted. "I think he’ll be a player somewhere one of these days. But in the meantime, I’m delighted, of course, that he stays with our administrative team serving our students and parents. It’s bitter that he didn’t get what he was hoping to get, but it’s sweet for all of us."
Lee, 49, has previously described Morris School as "a great place to work" and said he remains committed to his position as principal.
But Costa said he doesn’t know how much longer the Lenox district will keep its elementary principal.
"I’d love to say he’ll stay for 10 years. But realistically, I think Tim is looking to spread his wings and be a superintendent so if we get him to stay one, two, three years, for every day he stays it’s a good thing for Lenox," the superintendent said.
"I am disappointed but surprised only a bit," Lee said on Tuesday afternoon. He explained that when the School Committee put off its expected decision last Wednesday, he had an inkling about the outcome.
Lee, who spent last Wednesday in the Northampton district for interviews with the School Committee, teachers, students and other residents, said he had heard comments later on that the committee had decided they would prefer someone with previous superintendent experience.
"I’m grateful to the school committee," he added. "It was a good experience for me to go through the process and I’m appreciative that they gave me the opportunity."
"This ended up being OK," Lee said. "I love being a part of Morris."
He said he’s not actively seeking other superintendent positions currently, but might look into possibilities toward the end of the school year.
Costa suggested that feedback from focus groups and interviews held last Wednesday in Northampton sparked a change of direction for the school board.
Noting that neither Lee nor the other two finalists had previous experience as a superintendent, committee member Blue DuVal told the Gazette, "I feel bad about the process, but we need someone who has that experience. I think they’ll all make wonderful superintendents. Just not now and not with us."
She reported having received similar feedback from community members, school administrators and teachers. "The consensus was, we didn’t have the right person," said DuVal.
Information from the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton was included in this report.
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