Pioneer school board chooses interim superintendent amid budget woes

  • Jonathan Scagel will be the interim superintendent of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. Recorder staff/Max Marcus

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School graduates stand together on the stage after processing at the start of the commencement ceremony Friday evening in Northfield, June 1, 2018. Recorder file photo/Dan Little

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/5/2018 10:23:56 PM

NORTHFIELD — Jonathan Scagel will be the interim superintendent of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. He starts in July with a one-year contract that can be extended for another year.

Scagel has been a teacher at Pioneer Valley Regional School for a year, and has 24 years of prior experience working in various teaching and administrative positions, he said. He is the youngest of the four candidates interviewed by the School Committee on Tuesday night, and the only one without experience as a superintendent. The other candidates were Bob Clancy, principal at Pearl Rhodes Elementary School in Leyden and Bernardston Elementary School; Robert Gazda, a former superintendent and principal of the Gilbert School, a private school for grades 7-12 in Winstead, Conn. and Suzanne Scallion, a former superintendent for Westfield public schools from 2011 until her retirement in 2016.

“I can see what a great place this school is. I know we’re in a little bit of trouble right now, but I can see the potential,” Scagel said to the School Committee. “I can see the passion. I can hear it from the School Committee members, from the taxpayers. They want something better for this district and I feel that I can get us there. I feel that I have the leadership ability. I’m a strong leader. I’m a creative, effective leader that has a vision for Pioneer. I feel that I can inspire the taxpayers, you (the School Committee), the community members, the parents, the families and most importantly, the students to achieve that vision, because they deserve it.”

The School Committee did not disregard Scagel’s lack of experience as a superintendent, especially as it would relate to the difficult decisions that the interim superintendent will almost definitely have to make in the coming year to cut staff, programs or both. Scagel’s familiarity with the staff of Pioneer Valley Regional School, some committee members said, could be a double-edged sword.

“It’s hard to ask someone to cut a friend’s job,” Chairwoman Pat Shearer warned.

But all committee members were impressed by Scagel’s enthusiasm and his unorthodox ideas, like installing solar panels on the school buildings, working with local and national businesses to sponsor technology purchases and building renovations and hiring a grant writer whose salary would come directly out of the grants he or she obtains for the district.

Just as important as Scagel’s apparent capability, the committee said, is his familiarity with the district and the inner workings of the school.

“We need somebody from within because healing comes from within,” said committee member Jim Bell, who coaches track at Pioneer Valley Regional School.

“I really want the passion and the energy and the youthfulness,” said committee member John Rodgers. “I can take that over experience any day.”

Contact Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 261.




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