Mohawk Trail, Hawlemont regional school districts name new superintendent

  • Granby Public Schools Superintendent Sheryl Stanton listens during a School Committee meeting at Granby Junior/Senior High School. Stanton has been selected as the new superintendent of the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts. Staff File Photo/Jerrey Roberts

Staff Writer
Published: 6/3/2020 11:20:54 AM

BUCKLAND — A new superintendent has been selected for the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school districts.

In a unanimous vote taken at a virtual joint meeting of the two school committees Tuesday evening, Sheryl Stanton was named as the districts’ new superintendent, subject to contract negotiations.

“Sheryl will bring her extensive experience as an educator and superintendent with her to our districts, as well as her strong commitment to the advancement of rural schools,” Mohawk Trail Regional School District School Committee Chair Martha Thurber said in a press release. “I’m confident Sheryl is the right person to guide the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts as we meet the budgeting and COVID-19 challenges in the near months ahead and create an environment where all our students can thrive.”

Stanton, who currently serves as superintendent of Granby Public Schools, has served as an administrator since 2009, according to her resume. She previously served as principal of two Ludlow schools, and assistant and acting superintendent of Southbridge Public Schools.

She resides in Colrain and holds a master’s degree in teaching from Elms College in Chicopee.

Interim Superintendent Pat Bell will remain with the districts through the end of June, according to the release. Stanton is expected to assume the role July 1.

The vote followed an hour-long meeting during which each member of the two school committees offered comments on the three candidates — Stanton; Rhonda Lewis, principal of Glenwood School and Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School in Springfield; and Thad King, principal of Murdock High School in Winchendon — and ranked them in terms of preference.

Suzanne Crawford, vice chair of the Mohawk Trail School Committee, said during the meeting that the districts were “phenomenally lucky to have three wonderful candidates.”

“That said, these are phenomenally challenging times ahead, and I feel like we need to hire the person with the most experience to really start from day one with the least amount of learning curve,” Crawford said. “Obviously there’s a learning curve for anybody coming to a new job in a new district.”

Echoing Crawford and other committee members’ comments, Beth Flaherty, a representative of the Hawlemont School Committee, said the districts need someone with budget experience as well as an understanding of the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition, which aims to address the financial challenges of rural schools. Stanton’s resume states she is a member of the coalition.

“I really feel as though what we need the most moving forward is a superintendent with previous experience,” she said.

All but one committee member ranked Stanton as their first pick for superintendent.

Barbara Rode, who represents the Mohawk Trail School Committee, ranked Lewis, a 1989 graduate of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, as her first choice.

“We are all facing budget challenges and will be navigating a new norm,” Rode said. “Every candidate, every school and every town will be a learning curve. We have been on unsustainable trajectory financially for so many years with little solutions.”

She said Lewis’ experience in engaging community support and “maintaining outstanding success” in an inner-city setting, coupled with a track record of positive culture building, make her the candidate who could boost morale and bring enrollment numbers back to the district.

“I feel the skills we need to give our next generation … require more than a workable budget and more financial assistance from Boston to rural areas,” she said. “Although she has not been a superintendent ... I do feel we are the perfect place to grow with her.”

Others members also noted that under different circumstances, the alumna would have been a good fit.

“It’s a really hard choice to put her at the bottom of that list. I think she would be a great candidate if situations were a little different,” said member Jason Cusimano, who graduated with Lewis. “I think it’s just too large of a leap to make right now.”

Overall, the consensus among members was to place an emphasis on experience, particularly in budgeting, when ranking the candidates. Of the three candidates, only Stanton had prior experience in the role of superintendent.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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