Pioneer School Committee votes to seek interim superintendent

  • Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, speaks to the Pioneer Valley committee, Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

NORTHFIELD — To ease the pressure of arranging for a shared school superintendent before Superintendent Ruth Miller’s last day on June 30, the Pioneer Valley Regional School Committee plans to hire an interim superintendent.

Though the board has been considering sharing central office staff, primarily a superintendent and business manager with a neighboring district, many suspected that would be difficult to set up before July.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” committee member Peggy Kaeppel said simply during a discussion earlier this week.

Fellow member Sharon Fontaine proposed hiring an interim superintendent for the 2018-2019 school year, with some members thinking an interim might need to stay for two years. The position would most likely be part-time because Miller currently works as both superintendent and business manager, but the two positions would be split.

Committee member Sue O’Reilly-McRae hoped that by buying themselves at least an additional year of planning time, the committee might be able to have more conversations with community members about how they’d like to see Pioneer move forward, and gauge reactions to the idea of shared services.

“If an interim would buy us time for those kinds of conversations, I’d appreciate that,” she said.

On the other hand, committee member Debra Gilbert hoped Miller might stay another year rather than bringing another new face into the district. Given Miller first came to Pioneer in 2015, Gilbert expressed concern about a lack of administrative consistency.

“I’d like to see less changing of hands,” she explained. “I think parents, teachers (and) students need to have some type of consistency.”

However, the School Committee also voted during Wednesday’s meeting to formally accept Miller’s resignation, which she announced in June.

On a motion by Fontaine, the committee authorized the Superintendent Search Committee to formulate and distribute an ad looking for an interim superintendent. Miller and Assistant Superintendent Gail Healy were asked to make a list of responsibilities of their positions that the committee should consider when searching for an interim.

One thing was certain: time is of the essence.

“We’ll paint ourselves into a corner if we don’t start acting,” said committee member David Young. “Let’s not wait, let’s get going.”

“Remember, the end of the year comes June 30 whether you like it or not,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), who attended the meeting to provide advice. “And you need to have an arrangement in place.”