Superintendent Finalists Named
By: Alex Scofield
The attorney representing embattled Sandwich Schools Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson warned members of the school committee this week to proceed at their “own peril” with their search for Dr. Johnson’s replacement.
This warning comes one week after a Barnstable Superior Court judge dismissed Dr. Johnson’s lawsuit seeking to enforce an extension of her contract through June 2013.
It also came on the same night that the committee announced the four finalists in its search for a new superintendent.
Those four candidates came out of the original pool of 21 applicants who applied for the school district’s top job.
A screening committee interviewed nine candidates in private last week and, on Wednesday night, the screening committee released the names of the finalists who will be interviewed by the full Sandwich School Committee next week.
One of the four finalists, Matthew J. Bridges, works in the Sandwich schools system. The other three are from out-of-district—Gary F. Mazzola of Easton Public Schools, Paul Schlictman of Lowell Public Schools, and Charles R. Canfield of Monroe Public Schools in Monroe, Connecticut.
All four finalists will be interviewed by the school committee in public sessions on Monday and Tuesday. They have all been notified of their status as finalists, said James M. Hardy, a consultant who assisted the screening committee in its search.
“They are all very pleased to continue,” Mr. Hardy added.
Mr. Hardy thanked the 11 members of the screening committee, who interviewed nine applicants last week to help narrow the field.
“This is a result of their work,” Mr. Hardy said. “It was probably a 40-hour commitment.”
School committee members Jessica A. Linehan, Sharron L. Marshall and Nancy A. Crossman served on the screening committee. Ms. Linehan said it was “a fabulous experience” working with people of different backgrounds, and getting varying perspectives on the candidates.
“Even when we disagreed, it was very respectful,” Ms. Crossman said.
Just prior to Mr. Hardy’s announcement of the finalists’ names, however, Dr. Johnson handed committee members copies of a letter from her attorney, Paul L. Nevins, to the school committee’s attorney, Joseph A. Emerson Jr.
In the letter, Mr. Nevins maintained his position that Dr. Johnson has a valid contract through the next two years. In light of his intent to appeal Judge Raymond P. Veary’s decision from last week, and upcoming elections for two school committee seats, Mr. Nevins urged the school committee to suspend its superintendent search until June.
“If your client… chooses to proceed with the final interviews and selection of a successor superintendent, it will do so at its own peril and to the detriment of the best interests of the school system and Sandwich taxpayers,” committee member Barbara A. Susko read from the letter.
Ms. Susko moved for the committee to suspend the search, a motion supported by member Andrea M. Killion, but it was defeated 5-2.
Committee member Marie A. Kangas said the committee should abide by the judge’s ruling and proceed with the search.
“This is when superintendent searches occur,” Ms. Linehan said, the time when most school systems screen candidates for administrative positions.
Mr. Nevins said earlier this week that, in addition to his intent to appeal the Superior Court decision, he was also drafting a motion for Judge Veary to reconsider his ruling.
“I don’t have any great expectations that the judge is going to [overrule] himself… It takes a courageous judge to say, ‘I erred,’” Mr. Nevins said.
As for his plan to appeal, Mr. Nevins said he had higher hopes, albeit tempered ones. “Any time you’re the losing party… you’ve got a burden.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever be relieved,” Dr. Johnson said in a phone interview on Monday, when asked if she felt any relief at the prospect of the end of the turmoil.
“Sometimes I’m not sure that the four members on the school committee understand the far-reaching consequences of their [decision],” Dr. Johnson said. “It’s almost like it was a political game, and I was their football.”
“I really don’t think that I’m indispensable at all… I just want to see the district progressing in the right direction,” Dr. Johnson said.
For the superintendent search, though, the show goes on.
The finalist candidates are scheduled to be interviewed on Monday and Tuesday night, and the committee will also meet on Thursday night at 7 o’clock for deliberation, discussion, and a possible decision on the next superintendent.
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