Gill-Montague school district plans for superintendent’s retirement

  • Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Michael Sullivan is retiring at the end of June. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/13/2019 5:59:24 PM

MONTAGUE — Searching for a new superintendent will be a major project of the Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee in the coming months, and will likely require the expertise of a hired consultant, the committee discussed this week.

Present Superintendent Michael Sullivan announced his retirement last week, effective at the end of June, citing circumstances of his personal life. At the time, he emphasized that his departure is not related to any dissatisfaction with the Gill-Montague district.

“Although this has been my most difficult career decision, I am clear in my heart and mind that it will be the right time for me to go,” Sullivan wrote to School Committee members.

Sullivan is leaving a year earlier than expected. He was hired in 2013 with a three-year contract, which was renewed in 2016, and in 2018 the School Committee extended his contract through June 2021.

Yet, Sullivan said last week that he is comfortable with the amount of time he has left the School Committee to fill the position.

The School Committee, discussing the issue publicly for the first time on Tuesday, seemed optimistic about its situation, but acknowledged that a serious amount of work will be involved.

“I’m not desperate about this one. I’ve been desperate the last four times,” said committee member Mike Langknecht, explaining that the schools are generally doing well, and the district’s relationships with town officials are far better than they have been at some times in the past.

The committee’s initial work, Langknecht said, will likely involve determining what exactly the district needs in a superintendent, and evaluating how the workings of the administrative office may change under a new superintendent.

“We pretty much know significant change is going to come,” Langknecht said. “We just don’t know what it’s going to be.”

School Committee Chair Jane Oakes shared that she had recently attended a statewide school committee conference on hiring a superintendent, coincidentally. Many at the conference had advised starting with an end goal and working backward, she said, dovetailing with Langknecht’s point.

The other takeaway from the conference, Oakes said, was that the hiring process is probably complicated beyond the expertise of the School Committee.

“I would say that getting a good consultant is critical,” Oakes said.

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which Gill-Montague is a member of, can provide some guidance, but beyond that, a dedicated consultant will probably have to be hired, Oakes said.

The first parts of the process, she said, will be establishing a timeline of goals and deciding if and when to involve a consultant. Job advertisements will probably have to be posted by mid-January, Langknecht said.

To start, Oakes said she will try to get a representative from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to attend one of the committee’s upcoming meetings — either Nov. 26, Dec. 3 or Dec. 10 — to offer advice.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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