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Super Search: A-B Could Select Next Schools Chief Saturday

The School Committee plans to vote a decision after public interviews with the three finalists on Saturday, Jan. 25 at RJ Grey Junior High School.

The three finalists to be Acton-Boxborough's next Superintendent of Schools will participate in public interviews this Saturday, Jan. 25, at RJ Grey Jr. High.
The three finalists to be Acton-Boxborough's next Superintendent of Schools will participate in public interviews this Saturday, Jan. 25, at RJ Grey Jr. High.

It comes down to this.

After all the planning, searching and winnowing down a candidate pool, the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District is poised to select its next top administrator.

Earlier this month, the Superintendent Search Committee named three finalists—A-B’s Director of Personnel and Administrative Services Marie Altieri, Sharon Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance Glenn Brand and Brett Kustigian, superintendent of schools for the Quaboag Regional School District—who were chosen out of a pool of 29 initial applicants.

And this Saturday, Jan. 25, the School Committee will host the three finalists for public interviews at RJ Grey Junior High School and plans to vote on the candidate to whom it will enter negotiations. The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the library.

“We have three very strong candidates,” said Brigid Bieber, chairwoman of the Search Committee and Boxborough School Committee and a Transitional School Committee member. “They each bring something different to the table, and it’s up to the School Committee at this point to evaluate the candidates and ultimately make a decision about the best person for the district.”

Game Plan for Saturday

According to Bieber, the order for Saturday’s public interviews was selected at random. The order is as follows:

  • Altieri at 9 a.m.
  • Glenn at 10:10 a.m.
  • Kustigian at 12:35 p.m.

Bieber said each candidate will be allowed to make an opening statement of about five minutes, followed by questions and follow-ups from the School Committee and, finally, the candidate will be able to make a closing statement or ask questions of the committee members. The School Committee intends to interview Altieri and Glenn before breaking for lunch, and then returning to interview Kustigian. 

After all three candidates have had their interviews, the School Committee will take public questions and/or comments. Members of the public will not be permitted to question candidates directly on Saturday, but they invited to submit questions via email for the School Committee’s consideration.

After public comment, the School Committee plans to deliberate and, hopefully, vote on a decision about the candidate with whom it will enter negotiations about the superintendent’s position. In case it is unable to select a candidate on Saturday, the School Committee scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday, Jan. 28, when a decision likely would be made.

Some Background

Whoever is chosen as Acton-Boxborough’s next schools chief will take over for current Superintendent Stephen Mills, who in September announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

The search for Mills’s successor comes as the two towns move toward full regionalization of their public schools. The district will expand to include both Acton and Boxborough, from pre-K through Grade 12. 

“It is a special time,” said Bieber. “It’s an exciting time.”

After Mills announced his retirement plans, the School Committee formed a Superintendent Search Committee comprised of School Committee members, school staff, parents and community members. The Search Committee then enlisted the help of a search firm to assist in creating a job description before the committee began advertising the position.

“The School Committee talked a lot about what we wanted in a candidate, and the firm helped with that,” Bieber said. We talked about things like educational background, experience. … There were a number of different factors that we talked about, and in addition to that we held a number of public forums and a survey to see what the public was interested in.”

According to Beiber, the Search Committee weighed qualifications like educational requirements and experience to determine what was important in a leader, but ultimately did not want to make the job posting too restrictive. “We cast a very wide net,” she said.

Meeting minutes from October indicate that, in developing the job posting, committee members considered things like:

  • Whether they wanted a current superintendent or someone ready for the position.
  • If building-level and central office experience is needed/desired
  • Whether a doctorate degree should be required

The minutes further suggest members felt demonstrated leadership, a strong business background and understanding regionalization would be key, and that the ideal candidate would not see being A-B’s superintendent as a stepping stone.

Here’s an excerpt from the job posting (read it in full here):

The district seeks an innovative and dynamic leader who maintains a visible presence in the schools and communities.  The candidate of choice will have past leadership experience as a Principal and/or as a district-wide school administrator, and will have a background of maintaining the highest levels of integrity and trust with the internal and external communities.

Applicants must hold or be eligible to hold a Massachusetts Superintendent license. 

All together, there were 29 applicants for the position. That total was winnowed down to 8 to 10 candidates who were interviewed before another round of deliberation, Bieber said. Earlier this month, the three finalists were named.

The Finalists

If the Search Committee was looking to "cast a wide net," as Bieber said, its finalists represent a cross-section of attributes and qualifications discussed in putting together a job description. 

Altieri, for example, doesn't have experience as a superintendent, but she is certainly familiar with a regional school district as a former School Committee member and the current director of personnel and administrative services for the APS and AB. 

Kustigian, meanwhile, is the Superintendent of Schools for the Quaboag Regional School District out in Warren. And Brand is the Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Finance in Sharon. 

Both Brand and Kustigian have experience as classroom teachers and principals, as well. Altieri taught in 2006 at Hanscom Elementary School and, prior to that, taught courses as a teacher and course developer for Honeywell. 

Regarding education, the candidates are all across the board. 

  • Altieri got her undergrad at Merrimack and is working on a Master's from Boston University
  • Brand did his undergrad at the University of Western Ontiario, has a Master's from the University of Toronto and is working on a doctorate from the University of Bath in the U.K. 
  • Kustigian got his bachelor's and Master's from Sacred Heart University, got a CAGS from UConn in Educational Leadership and a doctorate in Educational Policy and Leadership from UMass Amherst. 
According to Bieber, all three finalists hold a Massachusetts Superintendent license. 

You can see the candidates' bio briefs here

While members of the public will not be able to ask questions directly of the candidates during Saturday's public interviews, interested individuals can email questions beforehand to members of the School Committee. It's best to submit questions by Thursday evening, as committee members will prepare questions on Friday morning. 

To submit questions, you can email: 
  • Maria Neyland, chairwoman, AB Regional School Committee, at mneyland@abschools.org
  • Dennis Bruce, chairman, Acton Public School Committee, at dbruce@abschools.org
  • Brigid Bieber, chairwoman, Search Committee and Boxborough School Committee, at bbieber@abschools.org 
So what do you think? What qualities and qualifications would you like to see in Acton-Boxborough's next Superintendent of Schools? Let us know in the comments below. 

Allen Nitschelm January 22, 2014 at 08:19 PM
I've written a series of articles on Acton Forum about one of the candidates not having the minimum qualifications to be considered for this position, and questioning the circumstances of her appointment to her current post in the AB schools. I was looking forward to showing up on Saturday to ask a few direct questions, but it now seems that "members of the public" will not be allowed to ask questions directly of the candidates. What does that say about transparency and public participation? Why should anybody bother to show up? Why go through a public process if the public will be restricted from participating? Since only School Committee members get to vote, and the public is effectively being silenced (they can come to witness, that's it) then the public's attendance is really meaningless. Well, this type of behavior is really par for the course for our School Committee. Let's see if they end up going with the inside candidate after casting the proverbial "nationwide search."

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