School Committee Names Superintendent Finalists 


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Report on the Joint Meeting of the Amherst Regional and Union 26 School Committees, March 26, 2024.  Part 1`

The meeting was held in person in the Amherst Regional High School (ARHS) Library and was simulcast on Amherst Media Channel 15 and YouTube. The meeting was recorded and can be viewed here. 

Sarabess Kenney (Chair, Regional School Committee, Pelham), Irv Rhodes (Chair, Union 26 School Committee, Amherst), Anna Heard (Shutesbury), Bridget Hynes (Amherst), Debra Leonard (Amherst), Sarah Marshall (Chair Amherst School Committee), William Sherr (Pelham), Jennifer Shiao (Amherst), Tilman Wolf (Leverett).  Margaret Stancer (Pelham, Union 26). Rhodes participated remotely.

Staff:  Doug Slaughter, Interim School Superintendent
There were 12 members of the public viewing the simulcast at peak and 4 present in the ARHS library. 

The Search Committee for a New Superintendent (SNS), a subcommittee of the Amherst Regional School Committee, announced the three finalists for the position of School Superintendent.  They are:

Susan Gilson  has worked for the King Philip Regional School District (Norfolk, MA) for over 20 years, and is the current assistant superintendent. She also has experience as an elementary school educator, and middle school assistant principal and principal. Gilson has extensive experience pursuing and receiving grants to support educational programs and opportunities, including math and reading intervention, teacher mentoring, district-wide curriculum updates, and educator evaluation. Gilson holds a BA in music education and a BS in engineering from the University of Hartford, and an MA in curriculum and instruction and a PhD in cognition and instruction from the University of Connecticut.

E. Xiomara Herman has worked for the Virgin Islands Department of Education (St. Croix) for over 10 years, and is the current insular superintendent. In this role, she implemented a clear governance structure and accountability measures, as well as strengthened relationships with all stakeholders through communication and collaboration. She also has experience as an elementary educator, professional development director, curriculum and instruction director. Herman holds a BA from the University of the Virgin Islands, and an MA in K-8 mathematics and science, and EdD in administration leadership for teaching and learning from Walden University.

Joanne Menard is the current assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Holliston Public Schools. Prior to this she was the secondary principal in the Gill-Montague Regional School District. Menard also has experience as a STEM educator, curriculum/instructional coach, and elementary principal. As assistant superintendent, she created a district-wide UbD (understanding by design) curriculum mapping template, participated in the five-year strategic planning process, and created and implemented a district-wide professional development agenda. Menard holds a BS in marketing from Ohio State University, and a Master’s in elementary education and a doctorate in educational leadership from Fitchburg State University.

The district’s search firm, McPherson & Jacobson confirmed that all three finalists wish to move forward. They also confirmed that a fourth candidate withdrew over the weekend. The 19 member search committee received 10 applications and interviewed six candidates.

Gilson is also a finalist for the position of principal at the Amherst Regional Middle School. Regional School Committee (RSC) member Jennifer Shiao and Interim Superintendent Doug Slaughter indicated that the two searches are independent of each other and consideration for one position should not impact consideration for the other. The names of the three finalists for the middle school position can be found here. Slaughter indicated that he hoped to decide on the middle school principal position in the coming week. The RSC plans to deliberate about the candidates and hold a vote at a public meeting, currently scheduled for April 30. The RSC indicated that there is good reason to expedite their decision if possible, given that their finalists may be applicants for other positions and suggested that the decision meeting could be moved up to April 24 or 25 if interview back-up dates do not need to be used.   The timetable for candidate site visits and for completing the superintendent search follows.

Candidate #1 : April 8-9
Candidate #2   April 10-11
Candidate #3.  April 22-23
Back up dates:  April 24-35
Public Deliberation of Vote of the RSC – April 30

Jennifer Shiao reviewed the proposed itinerary for the visits and interviews for each of the candidates.    The candidate visits will include a community forum and a staff forum on the first day and tours of the schools, tours of the town, an opportunity to have lunch with students,  an interview with the school committee, and an optional dinner on the second day.  The RSC proposes to organize a group of tour guides/ ambassadors to lead tours and introductions to various aspects of the Amherst community.  Feedback forms will be available for the public and for staff to provide input to the committee. Candidate c.v.’s will be posted and available to the public. The proposed site visit itinerary can be found here.

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3 thoughts on “School Committee Names Superintendent Finalists 

  1. I am struck by the background of two of the finalists. One comes from Norfolk, a town that, according to census data cited by wikipedia, is 88.97% white. The other comes from Holliston, which is listed as 96.7% white.

    This fact raises two question for me. Question one: why is the search firm sending us candidates who lack experience in leading a school system through the long-term process required to move from being a white-centric educational system to one that is truly multi-racial? Amherst needs real expertise from a Superintendent who can lead us in this direction. Question Two: Did the search firm not receive applications from candidates who have the desired background? If that is the case, maybe we need to determine how Amherst is perceived in terms of it reputation of actually supporting work away from a white-centric teaching system.

  2. Expertise in DEI is not an issue of race. Anyone of any race can acquire the expertise. The key issue in implementing a racial equity organizational culture is: how well-trained is the person leading the change project, Having a background in doing diversity training is not enough. The person also needs competence in leading the long-term organizational process that is part and parcel of successful racial equity work. Training is a relatively weak intervention. Anyone can sit through a training session and then decide not to implement what was taught. Taking an organization from a white-centric educational model to one where all races have a voice equal to that of whites is a multi-year endeavor, even when done correctly. It often takes 7 to 10 years to fully align an organization so that the perspectives and priorities of all racial groups take as much prominence as the white perspectives and priorities.

  3. I am happy that we have interest in the position. .. We need to lighten up on our expectations from the next Superintendent. Give them a chance to succeed, before being asked to move mountains, and solve for all the inequities.

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