Baldassarre resigning superintendent posts

Last modified: 4/15/2013 6:20:32 PM
ORANGE — Michael Baldassarre — superintendent of the Ralph C. Mahar Regional, Orange Elementary and Petersham school districts — will leave his post July 1 to lead a special education collaborative.

The four-year superintendent will become executive director of the Concord Area Special Education (CASE) Collaborative, which helps 13 school districts in the eastern part of the state support students with disabilities.

Baldassarre did not return multiple requests for comment Thursday, and CASE executives could not be reached to confirm his hire.

But officials in the North Quabbin region had been informed of the news and said that the move is a good one for Baldassarre — who had brief stints as Mahar’s special education director and then director of student support services before he was appointed superintendent in spring 2009.

“I commend him for his work in special needs,” said Kathy Reinig, a member of the Orange Board of Selectmen, who highlighted a Baldassarre-led effort that centralized his three districts’ special education departments in 2010.

Michael LeBlanc — a former School Committee member for both Mahar and Petersham, who worked with Baldassarre to try to fully regionalize four towns’ school systems — said that the special education consolidation was just one example of fiscal responsibility shown by the superintendent.

“He was able to work within his means,” said LeBlanc. “There were no losses in the education of the students. ... He set a realistic budget.”

School Committee members said they weren’t surprised by the news, saying it was a logical move for an ambitious Baldassarre.

“His leaving for me is bittersweet,” said Stephanie Conrod, chairwoman of the Orange Elementary School Committee.

Dana Kennan, a long-time member of the Mahar School Committee, described Baldassarre as “a young guy (who) knows his stuff.”

“I’m going to miss him, he’s a damn good superintendent,” said. “He thinks on his feet, he understands money, he does well in open town meetings.”

Still, Baldassarre’s superintendency featured political clashes with town officials.

Selectmen questioned his hiring in March 2009, when he was unexpectedly appointed to succeed Reza Namin during a routine School Committee meeting. He sparred with them over school budget allocations in the years that followed.

And although his push to regionalize four towns’ school services in late 2011 passed in Orange and New Salem, it narrowly lost in Petersham and was resoundly rejected by Wendell voters.

On Thursday, Orange selectmen acknowledged their differences with the superintendent, but said he was a good speaker and strong advocate for the schools.

“Do I think he’s done everything 100 percent wonderful? No. But he’s put a lot of programs in place that are good,” said Selectman George Willard.

“I’ve been on the opposite side of the aisle from Michael several times (but) he could sell ice to an Eskimo,” said Selectman Richard Sheridan. “He’s very articulate, a good orator.”

Earlier this week, Baldassarre called for the construction of a new elementary school to replace three existing ones in Orange that are older and only about 40 percent full.

Two years ago, he helped start the Pathways Early College Innovation School — a collaborative effort with Mount Wachusett Community College, where students earn their high school diploma and associate degree during their junior and senior years.

Baldassarre previously held administrative positions at Gardner High School, Stoughton High School and Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood. He also taught special education in upstate New York.

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