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Locals in line for city schools job

They are John A. Provost of Easthampton, superintendent of the North Brookfield public schools, and Jordana Harper-Ewert of Amherst, chief schools officer for the Springfield schools. Provost also is a finalist for the superintendency in Belchertown, where a decision is expected by mid-April.

A third finalist in Northampton named at Monday’s special School Committee meeting is Laurie A. Casna, director of personnel and student services for the Pembroke public schools. She lives in Plymouth.

Northampton School Committee Vice Chairman Edward Zuchowski said the finalists were chosen from a pool of 22 applicants by an 11-member search panel of city school administrators, teachers, parents and school board members.

Following interviews with applicants over the past three weeks, Zuchowski said the search panel voted Wednesday to name the three finalists.

“Our conversations were lively and insightful,” he told school board members Monday. “We are pleased with the overall quality of the applicant pool.”

Northampton is seeking a replacement for Brian Salzer, who left the district in July for a job overseas after less than two years as superintendent. Regina Nash, retired head of the Frontier Regional and Union 38 districts, is serving as interim superintendent through the end of the current school year.

Provost has served as superintendent of the North Brookfield schools since 2011. His administrative experience also includes stints as director of special services for the Agawam schools and administrator of special education for the Holyoke schools, according to his resume.

Provost also taught English in the Dudley-Charlton regional district. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Westfield State University, and both master’s and doctoral degrees in educational policy, research and administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Harper-Ewert is chief schools officer overseeing 16 schools in the Springfield district, a position she has held since January 2013. A former principal of Sgt. Robert R. Litwin School in Chicopee, she also worked as an administrative intern and teacher at Fort River and Crocker Farms elementary schools in Amherst, according to her resume.

Harper-Ewert, whose experience also includes stints as a classroom teacher in schools in Springfield and Greenfield, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education from Mount Holyoke College and a master’s degree in organizational management from Endicott College in Beverly. She is completing a doctorate in educational leadership at Lesley University in Cambridge.

Casna has been director of personnel and student services in Pembroke since 2011. Previously, she served as that district’s director of special education and secondary special education coordinator. Casna also has experience as a special education teacher at elementary schools in Scituate, Duxbury and Boston, according to her resume.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice from the University of Arizona Tucson and a master’s degree in special education from Bridgewater State College. Casna also holds a law degree from Suffolk Law School in Boston.

Northampton reopened its superintendent search in October after the School Committee rejected three finalists identified in an earlier round. Following that decision, the school board voted to increase the annual salary for the position by $20,000 to between $140,000 and $150,000.

In an interview after Monday’s meeting, Zuchowski said he believes the higher salary helped “draw a different group of people” in the latest search. “We also had a larger candidate pool because of the time of year,” he said.

While there were applicants from throughout the country, Zuchowski said there were no internal candidates in the latest search.

The School Committee will hold public interviews with all three finalists, possibly as early as Saturday. The board will also set a time for community residents to meet the candidates. Dates and times will be posted on the district’s website and announced via the city’s automated phone message system.

The New England School Development Council is overseeing the search for a Northampton schools chief.

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