Herberg principal among finalists for Lee school chief job

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LEE — A Pittsfield Public Schools administrator is among a "small, but very strong" group of educators looking to lead the Lee Public Schools.

Martin McEvoy, principal at Herberg Middle School, is one of five finalists for the full-time superintendent's position and the only Berkshire County candidate who will be interviewed in public the week of Jan. 20.

McEvoy has worked in several local school districts, including six years (2007 to 2013) as an English teacher in the Lee school system.

On Wednesday, the Lee-Tyringham Union 29 Committee, charged with hiring the superintendent and central office staff, announced the list of finalists drawn from a total of eight applicants. The new superintendent will succeed former part-timer Howard "Jake" Eberwein III, who resigned in December after two years at the helm. David Hastings, retired superintendent from the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, is temporarily in charge until the new school leader comes aboard.

The Union 29 committee's search consultant, Liz Lafond, said the district's great reputation drew top-notch candidates.

"You had a small, but very strong pool of candidates. You have a diverse set of interviews ahead of you," said Lafond, field director for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

Union 29 hired Lafond at a cost of up to $14,000 to screen initial applicants for the post to determine qualifications, eventually creating the list of finalists. She has also provided support services, such as developing the brochure to attract candidates.

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The other four seeking to run the Lee schools include two sitting superintendents: Aaron Osborne from the Hampshire Regional School District and Michael Richard of the West Springfield Public Schools.

Portis Bonner, former superintendent in East Haven, Conn., and an education consultant, and Tara Brandt, director of mathematics in the Holyoke Public Schools, round out the list of finalists.

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Lee Education Association President Ginger Armstrong was impressed how Lee drew a diverse, experienced group of public school educators.

"We have great schools, and it shows by the pool of candidates," the teacher's union leader told The Eagle after the meeting.

The Union 29 panel, made up of all three Tyringham School Committee members and three of the seven from the Lee school board, will interview two candidates each on Jan. 20 and 21. The fifth interview is scheduled for Jan. 22. The three sessions are set for 6 p.m., likely to be held in the Lee Elementary School cafeteria.

An expanded 10-member version of the Union 29 committee that includes the entire Lee School Committee plans to deliberate and decide at the Jan. 22 meeting whether to hire a new superintendent.

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Lafond urged the committee to fast-track a vote as some of the candidates are finalists for other superintendent positions.

The Lee district is seeking its first full-time superintendent since Jason McCandless left in July 2013 to become Pittsfield's school superintendent.

Lee went to a part-time superintendent after two failed attempts to hire a full-timer to succeed McCandless and an unsuccessful effort to share a superintendent with either the Berkshire Hills Regional or Lenox school districts.

Union 29 Chairwoman Amy Puntin said the lack of a strong business manager since Andrea Wadsworth left that job in June prompted her committee to advertise for a full-time superintendent. Wadsworth moved on to become the assistant superintendent in the Mount Greylock Regional School District. She remains chairwoman of the Lee School Committee.

Puntin expects to ramp up finding a new business manager after a successful superintendent search. Until then, TMS, a school finance provider, will act as the business manager through the end of the school year in June.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.


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