HWRSD narrows its list of superintendent candidates

May 19, 2016 | Chris Goudreau

WILBRAHAM – Five semifinalists were recently chosen out of 18 candidates who applied to become the new superintendent of the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD).

The list of finalists include Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Natalie Dunning, Albert Ganem Jr., district manager of professional learning for Worcester Public Schools, Wachusett Regional School District Administrator of Special Education Kimberly Merrick, Sharon Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Jahmal Mosley, and HWRSD Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Regulbuto.

School Committee Chair Peter Salerno said the Superintendent Search Subcommittee, comprising parents, teachers, administrators, town officials, and School Committee members, narrowed down the initial list of 18 applicants down to seven candidates and then five.

“The broadness of the search committee is indicative of the varying interests of different cohorts,” he noted. “We thought we had cast a wide net.”

The search was also conducted with the assistance of Glenn Koocher and Tracy Novick of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Search Services, Salerno said.

The School Committee is anticipated to name two or three finalists after a next round of interviews sometime in the coming weeks, he explained.

After the interviews, the committee would conduct site visits before naming a new superintendent.

In other business, the School Committee hired the New England School Development Council (NESDC) to complete a new demographic study of the two communities for $3,200. The study would help the district project enrollment trends. HWRSD is currently facing a decline in enrollment at the middle school level.

Previously, the School Committee chose to delay efforts to create a unified middle school, which would have been a short-term solution to the decline in enrollment issue. Committee members stated the decision was based on negative feedback from Hampden residents about the issue.

Salerno said NESDC should complete the study sometime next week.

NESDC started working on the study more than two weeks ago.

“The basic issue that people have really got to understand is what the future demography – numbers of students in schools – will be in the future,” he explained.

“We based our information on NESDC’s information that was supplied to us two or three years back. It wasn’t that we think there’s going to be a major change, but out of the over abundance of caution, in recognition that we want to be fair to all sides, we moved forward to allow for yet another validation or not validation of the information that we have,” he added.

Salerno continued, “If our demography information is wrong, if all of a sudden we’re going to have an increase in the student population, which we don’t expect, but if that did happen we will have to go back and take a look at what we’ve done … If it comes back pretty much the same, then there’s only a few choices we have and none of them are going to be very happily made, but they have to be made.”

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