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Thomas voted in as new Mahar superintendent

ORANGE — Interim School Superintendent Tari N. Thomas has been chosen as the new permanent superintendent for Ralph C. Mahar Regional, Orange Elementary and Petersham Elementary schools.

Mahar School Committee cast its vote Tuesday, the third of three approvals needed for Thomas to assume the job she has filled on an interim basis since the departure of former Superintendent Michael Baldassarre.

“I feel very honored,” Thomas said of her appointment. “This is really important work. These communities have great heart and a great commitment to their kids. If I can do all the foundation work that’s needed, then I’m honored.”

Chosen on her merits

The school committees chose Thomas on her merits rather than conduct a search for a new superintendent at a time when there are about 20 ongoing searches on the Massachusetts Association of School Committees website.

A search committee took into consideration high costs and the time required to conduct a full scale search. It also pointed to what it thought to be an excellent job performance by Thomas as interim and assistant superintendent.

The search committee recommended the three school committees who share the superintendent appoint Thomas “in recognition of the fact that she is outstandingly qualified to direct the best education course for all of our children with the resources provided, and is already heavily invested in the success of all of the districts.”

Thomas has 31 years of educational experience and became assistant superintendent for elementary education in her three current districts in 2011. Her background includes principal positions in Agawam and Shutesbury along with head teaching experience in the Lenox public schools.

The search was led by a six-person committee. Patricia Smith, School Committee and Search Committee member, said at last month’s Mahar meeting that the choices were to appoint someone or conduct a full blown search. Smith also reported at February’s Mahar committee meeting that advice had been sought from Pat Correira, field director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. Correira helped with many considerations, one being the current intense competition among Massachusetts school districts searching for new superintendents.

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