Morris Elementary School principal search down to 2 out-of-towners

Note: This article had been amended from its original version. The candidates will tour and interview in Lenox this week. The original version of the article stated that the tour had already taken place.

LENOX -- Within the next few days, the fast-track search for a new principal of Morris Elementary School is expected to produce a winner.

A 13-member screening committee sifted through 15 applications for the position, posted for two weeks early this summer, and trimmed the list down to five semifinalists, interim Superintendent Timothy Lee said on Friday.

The position opened up after Lee, who had been principal of Morris for six years, was appointed last month to the superintendency for one year, effective July 1, following the retirement of Superintendent Edward W. Costa II.

Lee was part of the initial 13-member screening committee of teachers, parents, staffers -- including paraprofessionals -- and a School Committee member that produced the five semifinalists; he did not take part in the interviews that yielded the two finalists.

The finalists are Carolyn Boyce, a former elementary school principal in the Orange Township Public School District, and Julie Vincentsen, principal since 2011 of the Helen Keller Elementary School in Franklin.

After taking tours of the Lenox schools this Thursday, the two candidates will be interviewed by Timothy Lee, Lenox Memorial Middle and High School Principal Michael Knybel, and Cynthia Dinan, director of student services and special education.

An announcement of the Morris School's next principal could be as soon as this Friday.

Boyce's position in Orange was eliminated when the Butterfield School was closed due to declining enrollment, Lee said, making her "a free agent." She has a master's degree in child study and early childhood education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and in 2010 completed a program in educational leadership at Northeastern University in Boston.

She has been an assistant principal in Longmeadow and Turners Falls, and has taught kindergarten. Boyce also earned a degree in music education from UMass.

Vincentsen's master's degree in education and organizational management is from Endicott College in Beverly. She also holds a master's in secondary social studies. She has been an elementary principal in Westford and a middle school principal in Franklin. She has taught seventh- and eighth-grade social studies.

Lee said the interview committee, who held one-hour sessions with each of the applicants, "had their pick of the two finalists almost immediately. It was a very strong consensus."

Now in the third week of his new position, Lee said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of applications, considering the time of year the position was posted.

Assuming a choice is made this week, he predicted that the successful applicant will be on hand in Lenox starting in early August.

"Typically, a principal hiring process can last three or four months," he said. "You can have public forums, public meetings, opportunities for questions and answers with parents and other folks." But given the short time span available, the search was accelerated and simplified.

Lee noted that superintendents are hired by the School Committee, who are elected officials subject to open meeting laws. The principal is appointed by the superintendent. Lee will negotiate a contract, typically for three years, with the chosen candidate.

While the principal position was being advertised from June 25 to July 7, parents, staff and community members were asked to fill out an online survey to suggest top-priority qualifications, such as areas of knowledge and communications skills.

The job posting called for a "collaborative and creative educational leader with an ability to sustain academic skill growth at a high level while supporting a learning environment that values children and childhood."

The position required a master's degree in education or educational leadership; a state principal's license; at least five years of successful experience as a teacher and three years in a leadership role. Desired experience and skills include in-depth knowledge of the state's Common Core curriculum standards, strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to create and maintain productive school-community partnerships.

The salary was described as "regionally competitive." In his sixth year as principal at Morris, Lee earned just more than $100,000.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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