Search for new Pittsfield schools superintendent may be more near than far

Pittsfield School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon, shown during a forum last fall, is looking for a student member to round out a 23-member committee charged with screening superintendent candidates.

PITTSFIELD — The School Committee has firmed up key aspects of its superintendent search, setting a salary range for their new hire and establishing a 23-member screening committee that will get first pass on the applicants.

The committee, after some back and forth last week, voted to advertise the top job in the Pittsfield Public Schools with a salary range of $165,000 to $180,000.

Mayor Linda Tyer, who proposed the salary range, said the lower end was “in the area” of what former Superintendent Jason “Jake” McCandless earned annually at the end of his seven-year tenure.

McCandless left earlier this month to become superintendent of the Mount Greylock Regional School District. The School Committee picked longtime district administrator Joseph Curtis to serve as interim superintendent during its search for a successor; it hopes to make a hiring decision by April.

The committee also accepted School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon’s initial appointments to the screening committee, which will be tasked with winnowing the field of superintendent hopefuls after the window to apply closes in February. The panel will conduct closed-door screening interviews and refer the most promising candidates to the School Committee, which will interview the finalists in public session in March, said Liz Lafond of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the district’s superintendent search consultant.

Members include retired and current principals, teachers, representatives of various community organizations, a retired police chief as well as Mayor Linda Tyer, Yon, and Dennis Powell, a School Committee member and president of the Berkshire County of the NAACP.

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The committee on Nov. 18 approved Yon’s initial slate of 21 people, whom she said she selected after they reached out to her via email to express interest in serving on the panel.

Powell expressed concern about the makeup of the panel that Yon had proposed, noting the absence of the district’s Cultural Proficiency Coach Shirley Edgerton on Yon’s initial list of names.

“I just really am concerned about the lack of real diversity in this list,” he said. “I find only having one student representative very problematic, when it’s about students.”

Yon said she had asked those interested in serving on the search committee to reach out to her via email, and tried her best to put together a diverse panel among those who had applied to serve. Member Alison McGee said the committee should be proactive, and instead of simply inviting volunteers to apply, should proactively seek diverse panelists through outreach to the community.

On Friday, Yon said she reached out to Edgerton who agreed to be a part of the superintendent search committee. To ensure an odd number of panelists for voting purposes, Yon on Monday said she was in the process of finding another student to serve as well.

Once that final appointment is made, the search committee will have 23 people on it, about twice the size that Yon said the committee’s MASC consultant recommended. Mayor Linda Tyer said the public will have other opportunities to weigh in on the superintendent search process, which will include focus groups with various community stakeholders.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and

413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.