LENOX -- Morris Elementary School Principal Timothy Lee will have to wait at least until Monday evening to find out whether he will be the next superintendent of Northampton schools.
The School Committee, which had been expected to make its selection Wednesday, has decided to delay its decision in order to consider feedback from local school administrators and residents.
Lee, 49, is among three finalists chosen by a search panel that reviewed 16 applicants to lead the 2,700-student district. Now in his sixth year as principal at Morris, he applied after Northampton Superintendent Brian Salzer left the $131,070 post last July after less than two years for a job in Germany.
Having spent a full day and evening fielding an interview with the School Committee, visiting the city's schools and meeting with parents, teachers, students and other community members, Lee was back at Morris on Thursday morning awaiting the decision.
He is competing against John W. Johnson, 47, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and Laurie Bell Farkas, 59, of Haydenville, director of student services in Northampton since last year.
"I learned a lot about the Northampton schools and I was in a better place to answer questions," Lee told The Eagle. "I wouldn't say there was anything new that affected my interest."
In view of all the written feedback gathered during the extensive community and faculty forums, Lee said it was not surprising that the School Committee needed more time to make its choice.
A vote scheduled on the same day as interviews "seemed rushed," committee member Blue DuVal told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Other school board members told the newspaper that beyond evaluating what they learned about the candidates, they wanted to consider whether the next superintendent should be someone who has held the same position elsewhere.
No start date has been pinpointed for the city's new school chief, Lee said. "There's some flexibility since there's an interim superintendent in place," he pointed out, "but there's an assumption that somebody would come on during the current school year."
Northampton has had six superintendents over the past 13 years.
During their interviews, Lee and the other two finalists described their visions for the school system, discussed their qualifications and responded to questions from 20 local residents on statewide tests, budgets and a proposed later start time for the Northampton High School.
The district also includes four elementary schools, a middle school and a pre-K program.
Lee, an educator for 24 years, including 18 years as a school principal in Lenox as well as in Connecticut and Wisconsin, said he found a "positive school culture" in Northampton and discussed student achievement in math as well as curriculum enhancements from kindergarten to 12th grade.
He described MCAS tests, to be potentially replaced next year with a new statewide standardized exam called PARCC, as a useful signal to measure student learning, but voiced concern about the new test's dependence on computers.
"To require schools to equip themselves and to take funds out of teaching and learning for that infrastructure seems unbelievable to me," Lee said during the interviews.
Lee has received high marks from fellow administrators, including Lenox schools Superintendent Edward W. Costa II, for his work at Morris Elementary.
While acknowledging that Lee "would make a great superintendent," Costa said there would be "room to grow" should he decide to stay in Lenox.
"There are other needs in this system," Costa said. "There's no assistant superintendent, no cross-district curriculum director. With the onslaught of initiatives from the state and federal government that is never ending, there is room to share the load."
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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