By Lynne Hendricks
---- — NEWBURYPORT – From a candidate pool of 18 applicants, four hopefuls have emerged as finalists in the search for a superintendent to replace Dr. Marc Kerble when he retires this summer.
They hail from districts as far south as Mashpee, and as far west as the state of Connecticut, and all four currently serve as superintendent in their respective districts. Mayor Donna Holaday said she hopes that fact will help create a smooth transition for the new school chief, in what she says is a time of great change in the district.
With two multi-million school building projects now officially underway, Holaday is hoping one of the four will prove the ideal match for Newburyport and can be fully ensconced in the central office by the time the school year gets underway in September.
“It’s very exciting,” said Holaday yesterday, a day after the finalists were announced to the School Committee. “We were concerned we were starting a little late and as a result we might end up putting in an interim. But, at this point, it looks like we have four good candidates.”
The finalists include: Ann Bradshaw, who has served for the past 8 years as superintendent of Mashpee schools and spent many years of employment with Falmouth as a teacher, curriculum director and assistant superintendent, according to her hometown paper; Jean Briggs-Badger, superintendent for the town of Dover, N.H. for the past three years, and for more than 20 years prior as curriculum director and administrator of federal projects in that town.
Also Lynne Celli, of Swampscott, where she’s served as that district’s chief administrator for the past 3 years, and as a half-time executive superintendent of special projects this year in anticipation of an upcoming transition.
The final candidate is Susan Vicarro, Superintendent of Regional School District 13 in Connecticut for the past nine years, and a native of Essex who has experience working as a director of student services, a special education coordinator and a special needs teacher.
Bradshaw has been a finalist for superintendent roles in Pittsfield and elsewhere since last spring, with reports from her hometown paper noting she was being considered by Norton, Groton Dunstable, and most recently the Ipswich School District.
Vicarro was also a finalist for the Ipswich Superintendent post, losing out along with Bradshaw to Pentucket Assistant Superintendent William Hart. The public will get a first glimpse of the candidates in the coming week or two, to assess for themselves who would make the best administrator for the city.
According to Holaday, the Search Committee – working with the New England School Development Council – conducted numerous focus group meetings with parents, students, business groups, community members, teachers, PTO and administrators to identify traits of an ideal superintendent.
“We actually did a profile,” Holaday said. “There was a whole series of focus groups that were run which put together a profile of what the School Committee, as well as members of the school community, saw as important for a new superintendent.”
Overall, the groups requested a future leader with a “demonstrated success as a motivational team builder with demonstrated superior communication skills, a skilled strategic planner and leader, a skilled operational leader, and an innovative, forward thinking, 21st century educator.”
They agreed that the new leader should spend their first 6 to 9 months in office is building a team, beginning the strategic planning process, being the lead spokesperson for the district, working with staff to review special education processes, and overseeing the two capital building projects that kicked off this spring.
Holaday said she and members of the School Committee, along with the public, will get to inquire on these topics on a deeper level at upcoming public and private interviews that will be scheduled tomorrow night when Holaday meets with the school committee.
“Hopefully within the next couple of weeks and we can make a decision,” said Holaday. “Obviously we’d like someone in place at the start of September.”