ORLEANS — The Nauset Regional School District Superintendent Search Committee has named four finalists after interviewing seven from among a field of 17 candidates. The district’s 15-member expanded search committee, made up of parents, students, teachers, and administrators, announced its choices in an open Zoom meeting on Saturday after a closed executive session. They had deliberated for four hours.
“To get 15 people to come to consensus is a rich process,” said consultant Patricia Grenier, a former Barnstable school superintendent, who was hired to facilitate a search that has been officially underway since Oct. 5, 2021.
All meetings leading to the final selection will now be conducted in open session. The state’s Open Meeting Law does not allow screening committees to meet in executive session after they have chosen finalists.
Brooke Clenchy, Nauset’s interim superintendent, is one of the finalists. The others are Sara Ahern, the current superintendent of the Franklin Public Schools; Andrea Schwamb, the assistant superintendent of the Wareham Public Schools; and Frank Tiano, former superintendent of the public schools in Chelmsford and later Uxbridge. The resumes of the finalists are posted under the “Superintendent Search” link on the district’s website.
“It’s important to me that Nauset gets the right leader, whoever that is,” said Clenchy after the finalists were announced. Clenchy started as interim superintendent this past July. Over the last six months, Clenchy said, she has worked on creating a school committee handbook that will be adopted next month and on a strategic plan and vision for the public schools moving forward.
Schwamb said she’s looking forward to having the screening committee members visit Wareham, where they will get to meet people who know her well. As assistant superintendent, she said, she implemented the International Baccalaureate program in 2017 and has found that, since then, students are more “actively engaged in their own learning.”
Ahern is also a candidate for the superintendent’s position in Barnstable Public Schools, as reported by the Franklin Observer on Jan. 4. She is currently in her third year of a six-year contract in Franklin.
In the Observer article, former Franklin School Committee member Jen D’Angelo expressed disappointment that Ahern was leaving, saying “the consistency and commitment in leadership” the contract implies was “one-sided.” The current school committee vice chair Elise Stokes, however, defended Ahern, saying, “Franklin has been fortunate to have a dedicated superintendent who understands effective education, policy, operations, and long-range planning.”
Neither Ahern nor Tiano was available for comment before this week’s deadline.
Over the course of the next two weeks, three of the six core search committee members will visit the candidates in their districts. There, they expect to meet with parents, staff, and faculty to better understand the candidates’ performance. The three are Chair Gail Briere, who is also chair of the Orleans School Committee; Martha Gordon, chair of the Wellfleet School Committee; and Judith Schumacher, vice chair of the Nauset Regional School Committee.
Two teachers on the search committee, Eloise MacLelland of Nauset Regional Middle School and Lisa Brown of Nauset Regional High School, will visit separately. And Briere said the committee will encourage another parent, teacher, administrator, or staff member to accompany the group as well.
In Saturday’s open session, the screening committee members debated whether the visits — historically on-site and in-person — should be done online instead because of the pandemic.
“I’m really torn,” said Briere. Some members worried about giving an unfair advantage to candidates who allowed an in-person visit if others didn’t; other committee members lamented the possible loss of the nuanced view an in-person visit provides.
“We have got to go to the schools and see our person in their environment,” said committee member Richard Stewart.
Orleans Elementary School Principal Elaine Pender agreed. “The intangible things you collect from those experiences give so much more depth to what those candidates have told you,” she said.
As of Sunday, Grenier confirmed that all four finalists had given permission for an in-person visit.
After the visits are complete, the candidates will visit the Nauset School District by turns from Jan. 20 to 25. They will tour two or three schools, meet the administrative leadership, and be present at an open forum where students, staff, and parents can questions publicly ask questions.
“We’re still working out the logistics to try and make it hybrid, so that if there are questions from people who don’t want to come in live because of Covid, they would still have an opportunity,” said Grenier.
The Joint School Committee, which consists of all 30 members of each town school committee plus the regional committee, will conduct final interviews with the candidates on Jan. 27. They have yet to decide whether the interviews will happen in person or on Zoom.
On Saturday, Jan. 29, the committee members will meet to deliberate in an open session and announce their choice for superintendent.