LENOX — A top-level leadership reboot at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School is under discussion following Principal Michael Knybel’s surprise resignation last week after 10 years in the post. He is starting as principal of Hull High School on the South Shore next month.
Also pending resolution is Assistant Principal Brent Bette’s future after he was placed on an “approved leave” earlier this month for undisclosed reasons due to personnel privacy and legal issues.
• So far, five applicants for the LMMHS principal’s post have submitted inquires, Superintendent Marc J. Gosselin Jr. told a meeting of the School Committee’s Human Resources Subcommittee on Tuesday.
• A planned advisory search committee has attracted interest from more than 30 parents, staff, students and community members. To whittle that number down, a public lottery will be held to form an advisory group that would include School Committee Vice Chair Veronica Fenton and member Meghan Kirby.
• Initial candidate screenings will be confidential, though a public forum may be scheduled later on. The final decision on the appointment will be up to the superintendent, who shared his thoughts on multiple issues with The Eagle last week.
“There’s no advantage to waiting,” said Gosselin, since the “hiring season” for principals is in its final weeks. “Once the school year is here, you’re not going to find any candidates. That’s why we want to move as soon as possible. It’s ambitious, but a lot of this could come together in early July.”
• The superintendent acknowledged “some trepidation” among the LMMHS staff about “who’s going to be steering the ship” this summer. An interim principal is under consideration, Gosselin added, most likely a retired administrator in a transitional role.
What’s at stake
Among other ideas that surfaced during exploratory discussion at Tuesday’s brainstorming meeting:
• Separate principals for the high school and middle school because of concerns over academics and student behavior. “It would probably a bit more expensive, but it does solve some problems and allows us to have much more focus on those areas,” Gosselin said. “It’s possible to have two principals and still one school. It would allow our staff to feel more supported, they would feel there’s more communication and a more responsive administration.”
“Middle schoolers and high schoolers have very different educational and social-emotional learning needs,” Kirby commented. “It would be beneficial to add some separation and space between the middle and high school.”
• As an alternative approach, a principal with separate vice principals for the high school and middle school, a concept proposed by Fenton.
• Creating a split position combining student activities — including athletic director — and facilities director.
• A facilities director with an engineering background, a shared-services approach between the School Department and the town. Gosselin indicated he would pursue the idea with Town Manager Christopher Ketchen.
• A curriculum coordinator to help LMMHS win final accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and to keep tabs on “curriculum refreshment cycles,” evaluation of student data and overseeing professional development. “Those are areas where we may be lacking and are probably behind some of our peer districts,” Gosselin said.
Additional information and potential meetings are likely next week and then in early July, following the Independence Day holiday.