NORTH ADAMS — After heaping praise on both finalists, the School Committee Monday unanimously voted to appoint Barbara Malkas as the new superintendent of North Adams Public Schools.
The finalists were Malkas and Stephen Donovan, who were each currently serving as superintendents in districts in eastern Massachusetts districts and came a decade or more of school administration experience.
The position was offered by a 6-0 vote, pending successful contract negotiations between Malkas and the School Committee. Her salary was unclear pending the negotiations; current Superintendent James Montepare earns an annual salary of $125,000.
Malkas has been the superintendent at Webster Public Schools since 2012 but resides in the Berkshires and previously worked as an assistant superintendent in Pittsfield's public school system. She has also previously served as assistant principal at McCann Technical School.
"She displays very inclusive, very supportive, collaborative leadership," said committee member John Hockridge. "She handles difficult situations with grace, yet you always know where she stands."
Donovan is currently superintendent of Acushnet Public Schools, a K-8 district where he began as a guidance teacher and quickly rose to superintendent, a position he has held for the last decade.
Though the final decision was unanimous, the committee took 40 minutes to deliberate each candidate's value and noted several of Donovan's assets.
"I came away much more drawn to her answers to us, as much as I feel like they were both strong candidates," said member Tara Jacobs.
The search for a new superintendent was set off after Montepare, who has served as the district's leader for more than a decade, announced in January his intentions to retire.
Under a search overseen by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, an 11-member search committee was established to narrow the pool of applicants to the position. Out of the applications given to them by MASC, the search committee chose Malkas and Donovan as the two finalists to send to the full School Committee for further review.
Members of the School Committee met with each finalist both at their current district and in North Adams, culminating in the questioning of Donovan and Malkas in open session meetings at City Hall earlier this month.
The members able to attend those site visits agreed that while Donovan's colleagues had positive things to say about him, Malkas' colleagues were adamant in their support.
There was definitely another level of excitement and enthusiasm from the staff that were talking about Dr. Malkas," said North Adams Mayor and School Committee Chairman Richard Alcombright.
Each candidate underwent a series of the same 12 questions formulated by the School Committee, designed to gauge the candidates' potential priorities and policies if hired.
"I think they both did very well under a difficult interview process, but I came away with Dr. Malkas being very confident and very interested in our school district," Hockridge said. "I think she handled herself very well."
Member Heather Boulger said either candidate would be an asset to the community.
"They both answered the questions well, but there was one candidate who focused more on the academics, and that was Dr. Malkas," Boulger said.
Montepare is currently under an interim contract that expires on July 1 and is paid per diem at the same rate he made as a full-time employee of the district. It was not immediately clear when Malkas, is her contract is successfully negotiated, would be able to start.
"I think it's a happy day for the North Adams Public School District," Alcombright said.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.