This story has been amended to add comments from the new principal.

LENOX -- Following a quick-step search for a new principal of Morris Elementary School, interim Superintendent Timothy Lee has announced the appointment of Carolyn J. Boyce, former principal of the Butterfield School in the town of Orange district.

"She's a skilled educator and a strong, warm communicator," Lee told The Eagle on Friday afternoon. "I feel very lucky and happy that she's joining us."

The Morris position opened when Lee was named interim superintendent last month after six years as principal at the elementary school.

Boyce, 35, of Springfield, was available because the Butterfield School for 200 fifth- and sixth-graders was closed last month in a reorganization of the Orange district, cutting the number of elementary schools in the town from three to two. Previously, she served as assistant principal at elementary schools in Longmeadow and Turners Falls, and began her career teaching kindergarten in Agawam.

"I had to scramble to find another job," Boyce said in a phone interview. "But it all worked out, and I'm excited and thrilled to be coming to Lenox."

Boyce was among two finalists for the Lenox position after the initial pool of 15 applicants was whittled down to five semi-finalists by a 13-member screening committee. But the other candidate, Julie Vincentsen, an elementary school principal in Franklin, withdrew on Wednesday night because she had secured a new position elsewhere, Lee said.


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She visited the district on Thursday, toured the Morris school and met with Lee, Michael Knybel, the Lenox Memorial Middle and High principal, and Cynthia Dinan, director of student services and special education.

Lee said Boyce would have been the final choice anyway, based on the review of her application: "Her experiences and skills rose to the top and matched a lot of the things we were looking for in a candidate."

He cited Boyce's elementary teaching and leadership experience, including literacy, school culture and other desired assets identified in an online survey the district conducted when the position was posted between June 25 and July 7. About 80 people responded, Lee said.

The nearly two-hour, in-person meeting on Thursday "confirmed that she would be a good match for the school," said Lee. "She had a great interview. We offered her the position at the end of that conversation."

"She described successful attainment of some of the same goals we've been working on at our school," Lee said, referring to literacy and school culture.

"In addition, she said some really interesting things about developing teacher teams within the school, sometimes called professional learning communities," he added. "They are small teams of teachers who get together to focus on very specific student or curriculum issues. She had a lot of experience with doing that, and she spoke of times when that went really well, and times when it didn't go so well."

"That led me to believe she would be able to come into a school like Morris, where we already have a pretty solid team ethic, and extend that successfully so that teachers will really be able to focus with their colleagues on issues of curriculum and student importance," Lee said.

Describing her visit to the Morris school on Thursday, Boyce noted that she was impressed with everything she saw and with capital improvements that were ongoing. "The physical space is very inviting, with big classrooms, and that makes me comfortable with what I'm coming into," she said.

"I'm excited to hit the ground running, listening and learning about the culture and history of the school and the community," she added. Among her first priorities is to meet with the teachers to get their feedback about "what they feel are the great positives of the school."

Boyce is expected to start work in Lenox on Aug. 1, based on a verbal agreement that will be finalized in a three-year contract on Monday or Tuesday, said Lee. He said her salary could be disclosed at that time.

Lee noted that the normal three- to four-month search for an elementary school principal was streamlined into a much more concise process in order to fill the vacant position before the start of the upcoming school year.

Acknowledging that while he felt it was important for Boyce to carry on with the goals he had set as principal, Lee said "it's also going to be important for me and for her to recognize that she's got to show her own brand of leadership and advance initiatives that match up with her own priorities, not just mine."

"I think that's probably something she and I are going to talk about a lot," he predicted. "When I'm talking about things happening in the school, I have to be careful to make sure that I'm respecting her vision of where she would like things to go. I think we will have a very productive relationship."

In other words, Lee emphasized, he is not expecting his successor to be a carbon copy of his own tenure -- "that's not what the school needs."

Boyce's degrees include a bachelor's in music education and a master's in child study and early education, both from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and graduate credits in school administration licensure from Northeastern University in Boston.

To contact Clarence Fanto:

cfanto@yahoo.com

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto