Virus outbreak just 1 variable in Mount Greylock leadership positions vacuum

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The Mount Greylock Regional School District has some key leadership positions to fill amid new role changes, an unexpected School Committee member's resignation and, now, a coronavirus pandemic.

Superintendent Kimberley Grady told The Eagle on Tuesday that the meeting to select a new School Committee member has been postponed for now. Longtime Williamstown representative and Mount Greylock School Committee Chairman Daniel J. Caplinger resigned Feb. 21, effective immediately. Christina Conry, who began her term in 2018, transitioned from the role of vice chair into acting chair, first presiding over a Feb. 27 special meeting session.

Wednesday was the deadline for Williamstown residents to apply to fill the vacancy.

Three current School Committee members — Williamstown representatives James "Jamie" Art and Alison Carter, and Lanesborough representative Al Terranova — each has a term expiring this year.

The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee will host its first remote meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday through a Zoom conferencing system. Public comments will be taken by phone at 413-652-5767.

A March 23 joint meeting of the district's School Committee and the select boards of Williamstown and Lanesborough has been postponed.

The searches to fill principal roles at Williamstown Elementary School and Mount Greylock Regional School still are open.

On Jan. 30, the district posted a search for the next middle and high school principal after Mary MacDonald announced that she would be stepping down from the Mount Greylock post at the end of the school year to pursue a classroom role, preferably, she said, one within the district she has been with since 2012.

The search for the next principal of Williamstown Elementary was posted Feb. 9. Joelle Brookner will take on what she described as the "long-vacant position of director of curriculum and instruction" within the district. She has served as the elementary school's principal since 2011.

The superintendent said the application window for the two principal roles is set to close in "early April," with an anticipated July 1 start date for the selected candidates.

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Grady said a search committee for the new principals is being developed. Before Gov. Charlie Baker's directive of school closures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Grady said, she had asked the district's union president to seek search committee representatives among teachers and paraprofessionals, and asked the school councils to select representatives to participate.

Grady said she would like the search committee to also include at least two students from each of the district's towns, Williamstown and Lanesborough, in addition to parents and other district administrators.

Grady also is hiring a new director of pupil services.

On Feb. 22, Lanesborough Elementary School Principal Nolan Pratt earned his state leadership credential to go from "acting" to permanent principal of the school. Grady said she negotiating with him on a three-year contract effective July 1.

The superintendent said Pratt is an example of how she would like for the district to continue to "grow our own" leadership.

"We always want to find teacher-leaders who aspire to step into leadership positions to grow and to aspire to be administrators," Grady said.

Turnover and appointments in the district have prompted some concern in the community with the level of transparency about the district's hiring and appointment processes.

Dave Armet is a parent, Williamstown resident, president of the Williamstown Youth Center Board of Directors and co-founder of Williamstown Physical Therapy. This month, he launched an online petition and emailed it to School Committee members March 5, requesting the school committee members to respond. It asks School Committee members to "strongly encourage the use of an open and transparent process that includes the appointment of a sub-committee to incorporate community feedback in filling the three recently vacated principal positions within the district."

To date, the campaign reached 190 of a 200-signature goal to endorse the suggestions listed in the petition.

Armet said he would like to see the district's hiring and appointment practices better explained, noting how Pratt recently was appointed permanent principal of Lanesborough Elementary over having to interview for the role through a formal search.

"How do we know if we're putting on a quality search, and did we get good candidates for these open positions?" he said.


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