PITTSFIELD — The field of superintendent hopefuls has been whittled to four finalists, including the current in-house interim leader.
Pittsfield School Committee Chairperson Katherine Yon announced the names of finalists forwarded by the search committee from an 11-person field. Also Wednesday, Interim Superintendent Joseph Curtis discussed plans to transition the remainder of city students, except virtual academy students, back to hybrid learning by Friday.
After more than three months as interim, Curtis has a chance to drop the qualifier, having been selected as one of the finalists. Since joining the district in 1994, he has been an elementary school teacher, principal, vice principal, professional development coordinator, deputy superintendent, and most recently, interim superintendent.
If selected by the School Committee, he would succeed his former boss and mentor, Jason “Jake” McCandless. McCandless took the reins at Mount Greylock Regional School District in November, a few months after he was hired by the regional school committee.
Portia Bonner was a finalist for the Mount Greylock position alongside McCandless, and is now a candidate for his previous job in Pittsfield. Also a finalist last year in Lee, Bonner serves as interim superintendent in Bozrah, Conn., Yon said. Bonner was formerly superintendent in East Haven, Conn., and an education consultant.
A third finalist is Marisa Mendonsa, principal of Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland and former principal in Springfield and Amherst. In a message to the Mohawk Trail community announcing her candidacy Wednesday, the Pittsfield High School graduate said she was excited for the opportunity to lead her hometown school district.
Rounding out the field is Wayland Public Schools Superintendent Arthur Unobskey, formerly assistant superintendent in Gloucester and principal in Boston and Concord. After expressing intent last year to leave Wayland this coming June, MetroWest Daily News reported that Unobskey wanted to start working in a more urban school district.
Yon thanked the search committee, chaired by Will Singleton, for its work, a process that began in December and included interviewing the field of candidates in executive session this month.
Now, School Committee members will curate a list of questions to pose to the finalists during interviews in public sessions, and will go on candidate site visits. The district aims to hire its next superintendent by July.
Many vocational and special education students are already back in hybrid learning in Pittsfield. All remaining elementary and about half of secondary students will head back to classrooms Thursday, and the other half of secondary students Friday.
To avoid staffing shortages, district leaders are pressing state and local health officials to let them run two vaccination events for teachers when eligibility opens up, said Curtis.
The events would preferably be spread across two Fridays when students would not have class, letting teachers avoid using sick time and preventing staffing issues.
“The importance of having these vaccination events, a coordinated event for all of our staff, is rather critical,” said Curtis, adding that local officials “are joining us in wanting to do whatever is needed to make these vaccinations happen.”