Photo Gallery | North Adams Public Schools celebrate Montepare and Patenaude
NORTH ADAMS — Even after more than a decade as the public schools system's superintendent, James Montepare isn't one to bask in the limelight.
But on Tuesday he couldn't avoid it.
Fellow administrators, teachers, family and friends shared memories and congratulations with Montepare in a heartfelt goodbye video following the School Committee's regular meeting.
After hundreds of school committee meetings at the helm, Tuesday's was Montepare's last as he prepares to retire at the end of this month after serving in the district for more than 40 years, beginning as a special education teacher and working his way all the way up to superintendency.
"This has been a dream job for me, North Adams has just been a great, great place to work," he said. "It's a place where it doesn't matter if you're a superintendent or a student or a teacher. If you have an idea, and you want to go somewhere with it, this is the place to do it."
Mayor Richard Alcombright presented Montepare with a key to the city, lauding his work in securing millions in grants and expanding educational programs in North Adams. Alcombright credited Montepare with being one of the first administrators in the state to develop a fully inclusive education program, repurposing Johnson School for prekindergarten, and the district's off-campus program.
"[I] congratulate [Montepare] for his 42 years of service to the North Adams Public Schools and for his efforts in serving the children of our community with care, compassion and respect and for his devotion to the greater community," Alcombright said.
The video, crafted and produced by longtime assistant Ellen Sutherland and Drury TV, ran close to an hour long and highlighted Montepare's lengthy list of accomplishments throughout his tenure, from securing funding for school programs to touching the lives of students directly.
Kristen Gordon, the outgoing superintendent of Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, reflected on their strong relationship that stretches back decades, to when Gordon started her career in education.
"You took a chance on me," Gordon said.
Montepare has always been there for her, Gordon said, including through the death of her sister and as she made the difficult decision to leave the superintendency at Adams-Cheshire.
"You've been there for the most difficult days in my life," Gordon said.
Colegrove Park Elementary Principal Shelley Fachini credited Montepare with helping her move forward throughout her career and said she aspires to be a leader like he is.
"I don't know if you understand the depth and the breadth of the way that you touch people," Fachini said.
Brayton Elementary Principal recounted a recent Friday evening during which a problem arose. At about 9:45 p.m., Franzoni said Montepare was in a meeting and trying to find a solution. Montepare, he said, has "really left his mark and his legacy" on North Adams Public Schools.
Matthew Neville, the district's director of facilities, said what he learned from Montepare in the 28 years together is to have compassion for the people you work with.
When she was brought on board, Sutherland said she was going through a difficult divorce and a single mom of three. Montepare, she said, was always understanding.
Sutherland noted that Montepare didn't want a party or gifts, but he received several, including dozens of cards.
"This is a little overwhelming," he said. "You forget the kinds of things that happened over the course of 42 years here, and I appreciate having family, friends, and colleagues around."
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.