ORLEANS — Expressing strong support for the candidate who has served as interim superintendent for the last seven months, school authorities chose Brooke Clenchy to be the next long-term occupant of the office at a meeting on Jan. 28.
Clenchy has been the interim head of the four-town regional school district since July 1, 2021. Pending contract negotiations, she will step into the permanent role on July 1, 2022.
“We owe the Superintendent Search Committee a great thank you for the time that they put in and the effort and energy that brought us here today,” said regional school committee chair Chris Easley at the beginning of the meeting. The process began a year ago, he noted.
The decision followed public forums held on Zoom with the two finalists for the position — Clenchy and Wareham Assistant School Supt. Andrea Schwamb. During the forums, consultant Patty Grenier, who facilitated the search process, asked questions submitted by community members. The Joint School Committee conducted final interviews with the candidates on Thursday, Jan. 27.
The Joint School Committee comprises the individual school committees of the four district towns, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet, and the 10-member regional school committee.
After Easley spoke at the Jan. 28 joint session, Wellfleet School Committee member Jill Putnam was the first to say she’d be voting for Clenchy “because Brooke has a lot of experience with complicated regional school districts.”
Putnam noted the district’s complexity with various finance departments, select boards, and communities. “Brooke came to us with experience, and she has now had experience on the job with us during a horrifically difficult time,” Putnam continued. “She sees the complications of our regional school system as a positive.”
Eastham School Committee member Edgar Miranda spoke about Clenchy’s character.
“There are two traits that I always look at very carefully: the spirit of collaboration and humility,” he said. “I think when you have a real leader who is humble, who is confident, who is sure of herself, they don’t have a problem delegating for positive reasons on certain projects.” Miranda said he thinks these attributes will allow Clenchy to help district leaders grow.
Runner up Schwamb had come highly recommended for “her warmth, her vision, and her commitment” said regional school committee member Dick Stewart. But he noted that she had only spent about a year and a half managing her current district’s budget.
Tom Fitzgibbons, another member of the regional school committee, praised both finalists. He called Clenchy “a seasoned professional” who is “at the top of her game.” Schwamb, he said, “presented herself as a wonderful human being. She had some significant accomplishments in her career, and I was impressed with a lot of them.”
The Joint School Committee meeting was held on Friday, a day earlier than planned, because of the approaching winter storm. Nearly all 30 members attended the remote session.
Cathryn Lonsdale and Griffin Ryder of the regional committee expressed concern that Clenchy’s status as interim superintendent gave her an advantage in the hiring process.
Judy Schumacher, vice chair of the regional committee, countered that “being the interim could work for you or it could work against you. She could have spent these seven months impressing us, or she could have spent the seven months doing things we didn’t care for.”
Schumacher added that she admired Clenchy’s respect for the original one-year mandate for the interim position. “She hasn’t come in and tried to steer the ship in another direction,” she said. “She’s come in and built foundational relationships.”
Though all attendees could express a preference for one candidate, only members of the regional school committee and Union #54 school committee had a vote in the hiring. Three members of each elementary school committee were appointed by their respective committees to serve on the Union #54 committee. All 22 members of the group voted to appoint Clenchy.
Union #54 was created in 1958 when the district was regionalized. Today, Union #54 conducts bargaining with the Nauset Education Association, which represents all unionized employees across the district.
Clenchy joined the meeting after Grenier delivered the news of her appointment over the phone. She was visibly moved; “I’ve got goosebumps,” she said.
“I really believe with all my heart that I’m the right person, in the right place, at the right time right now,” she told the committee. “I see so much goodness and good work that we can do. We have the right team.”
Contract negotiations are still pending. Historically, negotiations are led by the regional committee chair and union chair, who are Easley and Orleans School Committee member Gail Briere, respectively. Briere was also the Superintendent Search Committee chair.
Before adjournment, Clenchy thanked the committee for convening on a Friday night before a major snowstorm. The Zoom call ended with exchanged wishes that everyone “stay warm.”