PITTSFIELD -- Three women were named Tuesday to fill principal openings in the Pittsfield Public Schools.

Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said that Kerry Light was named principal at Conte Community School, Gina Coleman will become principal of Herberg Middle School, and Brenda Kelley was named principal at Allendale Elementary School, a post she currently holds on an interim basis.

Light now serves as a special education teacher and unit leader at Reid Middle School, and Coleman will join the system after having served as director of education at Hillcrest Educational Centers and at Williams College as associate dean of students and head coach of the women's rugby team.

All of the positions will become effective as of July 1.

McCandless said the new principals rose to the top during an intensive application process. It included interviews involving large groups of staff members, parents and others and ended with a daylong assessment center conducted with the help of a consultant.

"All three would rise to the top two or three anywhere in the country," he said.

Public Safety Consultants of Shrewsbury conducted the assessment center process and provided scores related to about 50 aspects of being a principal, McCandless said. The process involves having the applicant act in job scenarios and provide written observations about the position and how they would approach it.

The selection of Coleman, who is black, marked progress toward the administration's goal of actively recruiting minority candidates. However, McCandless said he was not satisfied in that, through two rounds of advertising for the three positions, which included ads in publications or on websites targeting specific readerships or organizations, only two of the applicants were minority candidates.

During the next school year, McCandless intends to propose a new search initiative to encourage minorities to seek employment in Pittsfield. The efforts follow complaints voiced by the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP that only about a half dozen of the 600 teacher jobs in the system are held by minorities.

McCandless said he's considering ways to have representatives physically travel to where more minority college students are located, and additional efforts to encourage local minority students to come back to the area to teach.

In all, there were 27 candidates for the Allendale job, 25 for Herberg and 21 for the job at Conte, he said.

Light has been an educator in city schools since 2004. She holds a master's degree from Springfield College and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from American International College. She also serves as a consultant to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as an MCAS-Alternate Training Specialist.

Kelley, the interim principal at Allendale school, served previously as a teacher and reading specialist and as interim principal at Williams Elementary School. She holds a master's degree in education from Cambridge College and an Educational Specialist certificate from the Reading Institute in Williamstown.

Coleman earned a bachelor's degree at Williams, a master's degree in education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska.

She is also as a blues singer with the group Misty Blues and was the subject of a feature article on her singing that appeared in The Eagle in June 2013.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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