Longtime principal and Greenfield superintendent finalist O’Shea ready for next step
GREENFIELD — James O’Shea believes his two decades in education, including the past 16 years as an administrator, have prepared him to become the next Greenfield superintendent.
The 49-year-old Bolton resident is one of two finalists aiming to fill the post of retiring Superintendent Susan Hollins. He’ll visit town on Tuesday to learn about the school department, meet staff and residents and interview with the Greenfield School Committee.
“Greenfield is a good match for me,” said O’Shea, who has served as principal of The Bromfield School, a public grade 6-12 school in Harvard, for the past eight years.
The department is about double the size of Harvard, he said, but small enough to allow him to still develop close relationships with principals, teachers, students and parents.
And O’Shea would love to return to the western part of the state. Both he and his wife are University of Massachusetts alumni.
O’Shea taught social studies for five years at Nashua High School in New Hampshire and then spent eight years in various administrative roles at the North Middlesex Regional School District. He was appointed to the Harvard principal post in 2006.
“He was an experienced principal when we got him (and) he hit the ground running,” said Thomas Jefferson, who was Harvard’s superintendent until 2011. He said that O’Shea’s interpersonal skills allowed him to effectively solve district problems and personnel issues.
O’Shea said he’s developed curricula for single classes and across schools. He stressed that a strong relationship with teachers is essential to his work.
“Education is a challenging, challenging endeavor,” said O’Shea. “If we’re going to be implementing changes, if we’re going to look at making improvements, teachers ... have to be part of that whole process.”
Members of the Harvard Teachers Association told Greenfield School Committee Member Margaret Betts that they loved working for O’Shea. They said he trusts and respects his teachers and makes them feel heard, even if he isn’t “always on the teacher’s side,” according to Betts’ site visit report.
The same goes for his relationship with parents, according to Nancy Lancellotti, co-president of the Harvard Parent Teacher Organization.
She called O’Shea an approachable leader who consistently communicates with families and listens to their concerns. He conducts student surveys and shares the results at parent meetings and is willing to implement adjustments based on the feedback he receives, she said.
O’Shea said he’d communicate with parents through social media, newsletters and community meetings.
He also is committed to being transparent about school finances: both during the budget development process and to show spending throughout the year. He creates his own zero-based budgets each year and works with others on one for the Harvard school district.
O’Shea currently works in an affluent district but Jefferson, the former Harvard superintendent, said that the principal worked with tighter budgets in his previous jobs.
O’Shea will tour the Greenfield schools throughout the day on Tuesday, leading up to a 5 p.m. public meet-and-greet with residents in the Greenfield Community College library, accessible on the main campus’ third floor. His public interview with the School Committee begins at 6:30 p.m. in the library.
The School Committee will either vote to enter contract negotiations with O’Shea or Jordana Harper-Ewert, or decide to go with an interim candidate and re-open the search in the fall. The board could vote as early as Wednesday night.
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