DRACUT — A Peabody special-education director who was the School Committee’s pick in March to become the next superintendent of schools is among four finalists presented to the board Monday night.
The 13-member Superintendent of Schools Screening Committee made its recommendation Monday, June 4, and School Committee members indicated they would hire Stacy Scott’s replacement before July 1 when the superintendent leaves his position to take the helm of Framingham’s schools.
The finalists are Peabody public schools special-education director Steven Stone, Southbridge Superintendent Eric Ely, retired Bellingham Superintendent David Fischer, and Linda Arsenault, the principal at Douglas Waybright Elementary School in Saugus.
Screening committee Chairman Mike Maguire said the members had chosen five finalists, but one, a superintendent in another district, withdrew his name after being notified he was a finalist.
In March, the School Committee voted 3-2 to enter negotiations with Stone, who was originally selected without a search process to fill the superintendent position. More than 100 community members then attended a special meeting the following week to demand a full and open search. The board voted 4-1 with only member Michael Miles opposed, to rescind the earlier vote and conduct the search. Members Ron Mercier, who is no longer on the panel, and Matthew Sheehan, switched their votes in favor of a full search and to name a search committee.
The search committee, which consisted of faculty and students as well as parents, community and school board representatives, interviewed 10 semi-finalists out of the 29 applicants.
“It was seven long nights in total,” said School Committee member Joe Wilkie, who also sat on the screening committee. “There was a lot of spirited dialogue throughout the candidates and throughout the reviews.”
The four finalists face further vetting, said School Committee Chairman Mike McNamara.
This week, members of the School Committee will conduct site visits to the districts in which each candidate works, to talk with educators there. For Fischer, who is retired, the committee will instead rely on reference checks.
McNamara said the committee will then conduct public interviews of the finalists, tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday evening, following the School Committee’s next public meeting next Monday at 7 p.m.
“I’m hoping that somewhere within this group of four folks that we have our next superintendent,” McNamara said. “However, if it does not work out that way, then we will go to the next step.”
Scott leaves his post July 1 to take the helm of the Framingham schools, but board members chose not to name an interim superintendent, saying they hoped to have Scott’s successor in place by that time.
McNamara said that if none of the finalists meets the committee’s expectations for skills and experience, board members may instead appoint an interim schools chief while continuing the search.
“We’re really looking for someone who will give us that long-term commitment, and an interim would delay that,” he said.