DALTON -- Robert Putnam has reached the pinnacle of his career as an educator.
After 25 years in two local school systems, Putnam is poised to take the helm of the Central Berkshire Regional School District, succeeding current Superintendent William Cameron, who retires in June.
"I see my job as helping the district do what we have to do while focussing on what's important," he said in an interview with The Eagle. "My message to staff is: Let's focus on the important things and do them well."
Putnam added he was "tremendously gratified" by the School Committee's unanimous vote of 13-0 on Thursday night to promote him from Central Berkshire's assistant superintendent to superintendent overseeing the seven-town school district.
Currently in his fourth year as second in command, the soon-to-be 60-year-old has worked at every level of public education in Berkshire County.
After earning a doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Putnam taught kindergarten, first and third grades, along with music in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. He would later become an elementary school principal in Berkshire Hills before moving onto Central Berkshire in 2010.
"I wanted practical as well as theoretical knowledge," Putnam said. "This appointment [to superintendent] gives me an opportunity to bring to bear all of these experiences. It's part of a trajectory I started many years ago, and the capstone of my career."
School Committee Vice Chairman Shawn Armacost pointed out an immediate task facing the school committee: Negotiating Putnam's contract.
"Rob's selection process isn't quite over yet," he said Saturday. "That's one task high up on the committee's agenda."
The negotiation of Putnam's salary, which is likely to fall within the lower $100,000-range, will dovetail with the larger process of planning the district's fiscal 2015 budget.
Armacost said this should occupy much of February, with meetings between district officials and the seven-town advisory committee coming later in the month.
The school district, comprised of the towns Becket, Cummington, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington and Windsor, is made up of six schools. Its fiscal 2014 budget totaled $25.81 million. Member towns paid $15.12 million in total assessments. At 214 square miles, the district is the state's largest by area.
Armacost said he expects Putnam and Cameron will engineer a "seamless transition between the two of them."
"They've made an outstanding team, so I'm sure that will happen," he said.
Finding a replacement assistant superintendent is part of this transition, and a near-term responsibility of the district.
Putnam said he seeks to "balance curriculum and instruction on the one hand and meeting state requirements on the other."
Budget matters and establishing a rapport with member towns will occupy Putnam over the coming months.
"Time to go visiting," he said.
These being particular skills of Cameron's, Putnam said he plans to glean all he can by watching the outgoing superintendent at work through June.
Eagle staff writer Dick Lindsay contributed to this story.