NORTH ADAMS — North Adams Public Schools have hired a new superintendent for the first time in more than a decade.
The School Committee on Wednesday unanimously signed off on a three-year contract with Barbara Malkas, who will take over for retiring Superintendent James Montepare on July 1.
"I thank you very much for the opportunity; I think that it is an amazing professional opportunity," Malkas said after she and the School Committee worked out the deal in executive session. "We just need to really have a focus on education as part of the economic infrastructure of the community. I think if we can work together in doing that, we're going to see the kind of improvement that we're all hoping for."
The contract puts Malkas at a salary of $135,000 annually, the highest-paid position on the city of North Adams payroll, but a steep decline from what she had been making as superintendent of Webster Public Schools.
Malkas made $158,736 in fiscal 2016 and was expected to earn $168,461 in fiscal 2017 at Webster, a district larger than North Adams, where she has held the superintendent position since 2012.
While at the high end of the advertised salary range of $125,000 to $135,000, the agreement does not call for any automatic pay raises, as Malkas saw in Webster. Instead, her pay will be reviewed annually and adjusted at the discretion of the School Committee. Montepare had typically received raises in line with what teachers negotiated.
With few exceptions, the new contract "in reality is the same contract that Jim had for years," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who also serves as School Committee chairman.
Montepare earned $129,495 in the final year of his contract.
Like Montepare, Malkas will earn 25 vacation days per year, but will only be allowed to accrue 35 of those days, whereas Montepare could stockpile 40.
Malkas remains under contract in Webster until it finds a replacement for her, and the district is in the process of searching for an interim superintendent now. Alcombright is confident that the process will not stand in the way of Malkas starting on time, he said after the meeting.
After in-depth interviews and site visits of two finalists, the School Committee unanimously voted to appoint Malkas on April 25. Malkas, a resident of the Berkshires, previously served as a deputy superintendent at Pittsfield Public Schools and an assistant principal at McCann Tech in North Adams.
The finalists were chosen following a series of interviews with potential candidates conducted by a search committee.
Montepare announced his intentions to retire in January after serving in the district for more than 40 years, beginning in special education and eventually working his way up the ladder to the superintendency. He officially retired in April, but agreed to stay on as interim superintendent under a per diem contract.
Malkas said she wants to create an education system and community that "attracts people to come back, and to want to come to, so we're not going to see that decline population.
"We're going to turn that corner," she said, "but it will take a lot of work."
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376