PITTSFIELD -- Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless plans to hire a one-year interim vocation education director, allowing him time to determine the future job description of the School Department cabinet position.

Later this month, McCandless expects to recommend to the School Committee the name of a temporary replacement for Frank K. Cote for the 2014-15 school year. The school board next meets at 6 p.m. June 25 at City Hall.

McCandless says the interim director will come from within the school district as he/she will be familiar with the local vocational education system.

Cote, the city’s assistant superintendent for vocational, workforce and college readiness programs since 2011, is leaving to become superintendent of a vocational-technical high school in southeastern Massachusetts.

The job offered a significantly higher salary, at approximately $ 130,000, compared to Cote’s current annual salary of $87,500.

McCandless told the school board recently it was too late in the current academic year to start searching to fill a high-level administrative position in public education.

"We put out early feelers across the state, but there wasn’t much interest in the job," he told the Eagle.

McCandless also said he’s weighing whether the job should change in light of a planned new or remodeled Taconic High School, which will house all 12 vocational programs in the city’s two high school system. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is collaborating with Pittsfield school on the project, and the state is expected to provide up to 80 percent of funding.

"Once we put all vocational education in one building, we may decide not to keep [vocation director] as an assistant superintendent’s position," he noted.

Deputy Superintendent N. Tracy Crowe and Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Kristen Behnke are the other two members of McCandless’ central administration leadership team.

McCandless praised Cote for handling a tough, high-profile job over the past three years. Planning for the new high school sputtered at times, especially over the proposed vocational-technical course curriculum the School Committee adopted in late May.

"Frank did a great job seeing the department through a rough review," he said. "He is leaving vocational education in good shape for who ever is the interim."

McCandless hopes Cote’s permanent successor will further enhance the quality and enrollment within the vocational, technological and career educational programs.

"We need somebody with vision and who can be creative with our students," he said. "We need to show college is not out of the picture if you’re in a vocational education program."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233