Adams-Cheshire Superintendent Robert Putnam retiring at end of school year

Robert Putnam

CHESHIRE — For the second time in less than three years, the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District soon will be on the hunt for a new leader.

Superintendent Robert Putnam announced last week that he will retire at the end of the school year.

Putnam, 63, was brought on to replace former Superintendent Kristen Gordon in July 2016 on an interim basis. He accepted the role full time earlier this year.

"I was hired for interim superintendent and I had proposed so many changes that I felt as though I really should make sure that these things all get off the ground," Putnam said.

Though his time at the helm of the district was short, Putnam's impact will reverberate throughout the district for years to come.

Putnam shepherded Adams and Cheshire through the lengthy and often contentious process of closing Cheshire Elementary School earlier this year in an effort to make the district more financially sustainable.

The district consolidated pre-kindergarten through Grade 3 at the former C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams, which was renamed Hoosac Valley Elementary School, and Grades 4 through 7 were combined in a middle school wing of Hoosac Valley Middle and High School.

Facing declining enrollment districtwide, the elementary consolidation and restructuring was used to hire additional staff and bring more academic choice to students in an effort to convince students and families to stick with the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District instead of attending McCann Technical School or the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School.

Putnam instituted the science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum of Project Lead the Way and Code High School computer programming classes to compete with the unique offerings of its neighboring public school districts.

More recently, Putnam has begun to work with a special committee to review the district agreement between Adams and Cheshire.

"We chose these initiatives based on what I believe to be community values and based on what I know to be successful educational practices," Putnam wrote in a letter to the School Committee. "I am proud that, thanks to you, we got all of these initiatives off the ground, but it is going to take three to five years of focused effort to ensure that they take root and stand on their own."

Given that he would be in his mid-to-late 60s by the time that window closed, Putnam decided this was the right time to announce his retirement.

"It takes a lot of time and I just don't have that much time anymore," Putnam said.

Prior to joining Adams-Cheshire, Putnam was superintendent as Central Berkshire Regional School District and resigned in 2015. Prior to his five-year career at Central Berkshire, Putnam spent 23 years in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, starting as a teacher and later becoming an administrator there for five years. He has also been a professional musician for nearly 40 years.

The School Committee has not yet determined a search process, but it typically forms a committee that narrows the field to three finalists who are sent to the full School Committee for interviews.

"It has been our goal to institute the changes necessary to improve student learning and raise the district out of Level 3 status," said School Committee Chairman Paul Butler. "We certainly will need someone at the leadership role who is capable of continuing to make the needed improvements across all grade levels."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-496-6376.