The search for a new principal for the Amherst Regional Middle School (ARMS) is continuing despite the challenges created by the pandemic and social distancing. Public input is still possible but finding out about the process and the candidates is not easy.
The three finalists are Diego Sharon (current Dean of Students at ARMS), Jason Hynek (current Interim Principal at North Brookfield Jr/Sr High School in Worcester County), and Jennifer Sauter (current Education Director at ARCHway, Inc., a residential educational facility for students with autism in Leicester, MA). A fourth finalist withdrew their application. Assistant Superintendent of Diversity, Equity, and Human Resources Doreen Cunningham confirmed that neither of the current interim co-principals, Rebecca Sweetman and Joseph Smith, applied for the job.
Finalist resumes, video interviews, and associated websites can be found below.
A controversial issue in previous principal searches involved licensure. A search of the Department of Education website revealed that both Hynek and Sauter have active Principal licenses in Massachusetts. According to Cunningham, Sharon “is from out of state and working to obtain a MA license.” His resume indicates that he is currently enrolled in the Principal Intern Program at the Upper Valley Educators Institute in Keene, NH.
Community members can provide feedback on the candidates until May 13, via email to HumanResources@ARPS.org or voicemail at 413-362-1803. A suggested, but not required format, by the District includes the following:
Recommendation: Do Not Hire _____ Consider ______
Appoint to Position ______
If recommended for hire: First Choice _____ Second Choice _____
Third Choice _____
Cunningham made a brief announcement about the search at the April 28, 2020 Regional School Committee Meeting during the Superintendent’s Update, saying that the virtual community forums would be held on May 6 and 7. Each candidate was interviewed by Cunningham and community members could ask questions using a YouTube chat feature. While Cunningham said that middle school families, including current 6th grade ARPS students, were notified about the forum schedule via SchoolMessenger, families of students in grades K-5 and 9-12 did not receive such notification. Recent weekly email updates sent by Superintendent Morris to all District families did not promote the forums, and a search of the ARMS, ARPS, and Amherst Town webpages returned no results.
According to Cunningham, the original pool of 17 applicants was reduced to four finalists by screening and interview committees composed of parents, staff, and members of the School Equity Task Force. According to Acting Regional School Committee Chair Allison McDonald, these committees are formed by Cunningham. The final decision on which finalist will be hired rests with Superintendent Morris, who is expected to report his choice by June 1.
Also during the April 28 meeting, the Regional School Committee voted to remove Policy CI. This policy was created in 1993 and allowed the School Committee to create selection committees as part of the process for filling administrative vacancies, except for the Superintendent. Chair Allison McDonald introduced this topic as having been brought to the attention of the School Committee by a community member, and described the existence of the policy as a source of “confusion and misunderstanding.” She and Morris said that the policy was not in compliance with the more recent state education reforms or Massachusetts General Law (the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, as McDonald later clarified via email). Of note, the posted agenda for the April 28 meeting listed “Discussion” of this topic and not a potential vote. The policy in question has now been removed from the ARPS website.