Finalists named for Greenfield schools superintendent

  • The Greenfield School Committee meets in person Tuesday at the John Zon Community Center, where members discussed five finalists for the superintendent’s position. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • From left to right, Interim Superintendent Judy Houle, Greenfield School Committee Chair Amy Proietti, Vice Chair Susan Eckstrom and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, also a School Committee member, meet in person Tuesday at the John Zon Community Center. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2021 6:48:21 PM

GREENFIELD — Five finalists have been named in the search for a new superintendent of the Greenfield School Department.

“Of eight people who applied, we chose five,” School Committee member Jean Wall told fellow members on Wednesday evening at the committee’s first in-person meeting since March 2020, held at the John Zon Community Center. “This is remarkable to have five strong candidates going forward for the School Committee to choose from.”

Former Superintendent Jordana Harper announced in September that she did not intend to renew her contract, but then came to an “amicable agreement” with the School Committee that ended her tenure on Feb. 19. Since then, Dr. Judy Houle with The Management Solutions Inc. has been serving as interim superintendent.

Wall, who has been leading the Superintendent Search Committee, said each candidate was given an hour to answer a set of questions. Based on their answers to those questions, five candidates were brought forward in the process.

The candidates are Bernard Audette, Carole Learned-Miller, Jennifer Culkeen, Christine Debarge and Thaddeus King.

Bernard Audette

Audette currently serves as a principal in the education division of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, according to his resume. There, he oversees the correctional institution schools in the southern sector of the state, while also maintaining a focus on curriculum and instruction, and management of the Adult Basic Education Grant, according to LinkedIn.

He previously served as a principal of Holy Name Junior/Senior High School in Worcester and as a principal in the Quabbin Regional School District. Audette was also the founder of a free, online professional community for educators to collaborate and strategize during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carole Learned-Miller

Learned-Miller currently serves as chief of staff at the New York City Leadership Academy, where she has also served as the senior director of district improvement, according to her resume. In these capacities, she designs and facilitates professional learning for school and district leaders on topics such as dismantling inequities, ensuring standards-based and culturally responsible instruction, and she develops tools for analyzing data on achievement and opportunity gaps.

Prior to the New York City Leadership Academy, Learned-Miller served in a variety of leadership roles at several secondary schools and school districts.

Jennifer Culkeen

Culkeen currently serves as superintendent of Erving School Union 28, where she is responsible for the four districts that make up the supervisory union, community relationships and responsibilities to the school committees, according to her resume. In this role, Culkeen has been involved in a five-year district plan; created streamlined processes for central office functions and processes; and partnered with the director of finance and operations to craft budgets.

Previously, Culkeen served as a principal at two elementary schools in Orange, in the capacity of Title I director at Gardner Public Schools, and as a kindergarten teacher at schools in Gardner and Fitchburg.

Christine Debarge

Debarge currently serves as superintendent of East Windsor Public Schools, where she has prepared and presented a budget; ensures the district implements strategies to create and maintain a positive school climate; and recommends and drafts policy for the Board of Education, according to her resume. She also oversaw the educational program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previously, Debarge served as an assistant superintendent, a director of student support services, and a Level 4 plan manager for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Thaddeus King

King is currently the interim superintendent at Winchendon Public Schools, as well as principal at Winchendon High School. Prior to that, he served as a principal in Lowell for six years.

Throughout his administrative experience, King has directly managed up to 700 students, and about 100 staff and employees at multiple school sites; developed school-wide safety and security procedures; engaged state representatives and community organizations; and used building-based budgets to create afterschool and Saturday programming designed to provide additional remediation for struggling students, as well as a summer school diversion.

Next steps

Wall explained that the next steps in the process include virtual site visits to the finalists’ places of work, followed by in-person site visits to Greenfield. Each candidate will be interviewed by the School Committee following their respective visit to Greenfield, which are currently scheduled to take place from July 6 through July 8 and July 12 to July 13.

School Committee member Susan Hollins asked whether more than two people, as suggested by the Superintendent Search Committee, should be participating in each site visit.

“It’s really one of the most important decisions this committee is going to make,” she said, noting she thought it would be beneficial to have more people involved.

But other members agreed there was a concern of there being a quorum if there were more than two School Committee members present, which would violate Open Meeting Law if not posted in advance. Instead, the visits will be recorded for committee members to review afterward.

“It’s kind of just getting started,” said School Committee Chair Amy Proietti. “This is an important next step we’re taking.”

The School Committee anticipates discussing and voting on the final choice at the July 14 meeting.

“We’re so excited about this cast you all are about to interview,” Wall said.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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