Mount Greylock schools tap experienced interim superintendent

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The handoff had to be quick.

Robert Putnam arrived Tuesday as interim superintendent of the Mount Greylock Regional School District, less than 24 hours after being hired. He had until Wednesday to absorb everything a departing assistant superintendent, Andrea Wadsworth, could share — all with a complicated start to a new school year around the corner.

"He did get started this morning," Christina Conry, chairwoman of the School Committee, said Tuesday of Putnam. "We feel very fortunate."

Late Monday afternoon, the district's School Committee came out of executive session and voted unanimously to hire Putnam to replace Kimberley Grady, the district's superintendent since 2018. Conry announced that Grady is on an "indefinite" medical leave.

Since last month, Wadsworth has been acting as interim leader of the district, which encompasses Williamstown and Lanesborough. But, Wadsworth's last day is Wednesday, before she takes a job at Berkshire Community College.

When asked whether Grady is expected to return from her medical leave, Conry said: "I don't know that I have the answer to that."

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A message was left by The Eagle with Grady seeking comment on her employment status. Her three-year contract runs into 2021; she earns an annual salary of $154,500. A citizens petition in early 2019 questioned her leadership.

Conry said the coronavirus pandemic interrupted what would have been the start this spring of a performance evaluation for Grady.

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On Tuesday, the district still was in negotiations with Putnam, the former leader of the Central Berkshire and the Adams-Cheshire regional districts, about pay and term of service.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Putnam said his initial day went well. "I'm working on it," he said. "It was a long first day and I should go home and keep working on it."After convening their session online Monday night, members of the School Committee went into private session to discuss issues related to the superintendent's position. When they returned to public session, Conry cited "an immediate need to carry out the day-to-day duties of the superintendent" and recommended Putnam for the post.

Member Carrie Greene, of Williamstown, moved to hire Putnam, pending negotiations, and the vote carried with no discussion, though Greene asked Conry to clarify what the new interim chief's priorities should be.

"We want to be sure that we have very clear directives from the committee to the interim superintendent," she said. "The No. 1 priority is having our reopening plans mapped out."

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Other top goals, she said, are to help acclimate other new administrators and to work with the panel's subcommittees.

The district includes three schools — one elementary school in each town and Mount Greylock Regional School, with Grades 7 through 12. Enrollment is about 1,200 students, according to the district's website.

Putnam retired as superintendent of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District in 2018, after signing on as an interim leader in 2016. While there, he oversaw the closing of Cheshire Elementary School to save the district money.

He spent the first five years of the past decade as chief of the Central Berkshire Regional School District, leaving in 2015. Before that, Putnam worked for 23 years in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District as a teacher and administrator.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.


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