Adams-Cheshire committee likely on cusp of picking new schools chief — again

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CHESHIRE — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee likely will pick a new superintendent next week from two candidates who would be committed to the job.

The committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday to decide whether Beth Choquette, of Cheshire, or Aaron Dean, of Adams, will succeed John Vosburgh, who resigned two weeks ago, after just one year as the district's top educator. The board will gather at the former Cheshire Elementary School on Church Street.

The committee's key concern for the two finalists interviewed Thursday night at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School was their commitment to a position that is changing hands for the third time in three years.

"We need some stability. We need someone who will stay. We need consistency," said committee member Regina Hill, who chaired the superintendent search subcommittee.

Vosburgh was hired in April 2018 to succeed Robert Putnam, who retired. Putnam had been brought on to replace Kristen Gordon, who resigned in July 2016. Gordon was Al Skrocki's successor when he retired in October 2012, after a 38-year career with the district.

Choquette, a building principal at two different schools for the past 13 years, said the towns, students and teachers deserve a longer-serving superintendent.

"If you look at my track record, I'm not one who jumps from job to job," she said during her 40-minute interview.

Choquette has spent the past seven years as principal at Bridge Street Elementary School in the Northampton Public Schools. The previous six years, she ran Stamford Elementary School in Stamford, Vt.

Dean says he, too, plans to stay put in the district for years to come.

"For this position, I want to come home," said the Adams native. "I look at this district and I see potential. At the end of the day, I want [Adams-Cheshire] as the best option, not just an option [for education]."

Dean already has experience in the two-town school system. The principal at Crosby Elementary School in Pittsfield was a music teacher and band director in the district from 1998 to 2012.

Dean and Choquette were among 12 applicants for the job. Herberg Middle School Principal Martin McEvoy was a third finalist, but he bowed out of contention before Thursday's interviews.

The winning candidate will replace Vosburgh, who resigned effective July 31. He earned a $127,000 annual salary in his only year leading the district.

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The former principal at Taconic High School in Pittsfield has moved on to become the assistant principal for teaching and learning at Nessacus Middle School in Dalton, which is part of the Central Berkshire Regional School District.

Skrocki was appointed in early July to serve on an interim basis until Vosburgh's permanent replacement is chosen.

During 35 minutes of questioning, Dean said he will be a hands-on superintendent with an open-door policy.

"You need to give folks a chance to voice their concerns and help build a consensus," he said.

Dean cited his experience as a teacher union leader and 14 years representing Adams on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee as assets he would bring to the superintendency. He vowed to better use teacher leaders and help the educators become better prepared in the classroom.

"Every student deserves an effective teacher," he said.

Dean also wants to get the community more involved in the district and celebrate more the student and teacher successes within the district.

Choquette said those successes come if morale is high in the schools, in part, due to a leader who listens. She found morale very low when she arrived at Bridge Street Elementary School in Northampton, something the school principal worked to improve.

"If you don't have the trust of the people in the district and people aren't happy when they come to work, we won't succeed," she said.

Choquette, on the verge of getting her doctorate in education, says she will ensure that all Adams-Cheshire students have equal access to educational programs and services, and work to let the teachers' talents shine.

And don't expect her to make snap decisions based on data alone.

On Choquette's first day in Northampton, she said, the superintendent told her to fire a fourth grade teacher because of poor MCAS scores, which she didn't.

"I am somebody who observes and listens. Give me time to make my own assessment," she said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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