Athol/Royalston School Committee gets superintendent search under way


For The Athol Daily News
Published: 12/21/2021 3:36:42 PM
Modified: 12/21/2021 3:36:27 PM

ATHOL — Superintendent of Schools Darcy Fernandes sat patiently and watched as the Athol Royalston Regional School Committee at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 15, discussed how best to proceed with the search to find her replacement. The move became necessary due to the failure of the negotiations subcommittee and Fernandes to reach accord on a new contract.

“Because the parties did not reach an agreement on a successor contract,” committee Chair Mitch Grosky told his colleagues, “we’ll be looking at a superintendent search at this time.

“There are a lot of ways a search can be done. It can be done entirely by the school committee, or it can be done by a search service, or it can be done with the advice of a search service.”

Grosky then provided the committee with research he had conducted on a pair of search companies, including the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

“They make your search what you want it to be,” he said. “When I talked to them I told them that we wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a long search, but we certainly may want to involve the community in that search to the extent possible.

“They indicated to me that if we were to get under way quickly, at the beginning of January, and if we had a search committee of only nine people, or something like that, where everybody was motivated and cooperative, that we could probably begin in January and have someone on board in April.”

Grosky also reported that he had contacted the New England School Development Council, who responded with a letter and a brochure detailing their services.

“I can say to you that I was quoted a price of $10,500 by MASC. NESDC says (in their material) that their cost for a comprehensive search is between $12,000 and $20,000. Our attorney has suggested that we go out for a cost proposal.”

Grosky then asked committee members whether they preferred to contract for help with the search or conduct the process by themselves.

“I understand the theory of having a search committee and do all of the work ourselves,” committee member Lee Chauvette replied, “but we really don’t have the time to do just a straight School Committee search. I really think we could benefit from the services of MASC, and that’s only because we’re a member of MASC. I know we’ll probably get some cost proposals, and that’s fine, but I’d really like to see us move forward to utilize the services of (MASC Executive Director) Glen Koocher and that staff because they take the legwork out of everything.

“We’re volunteers and we don’t have a year and a half. So, I really would like to see us give consideration to the organization that we already belong to, if possible.”

Chauvette then added, “That would be a motion.” The motion was seconded by Nancy Melbourne.

School Committee attorney Fred Dupere, however, said the panel should seek bids from at least three search services. Chauvuette subsequently amended his motion to comply with Dupere’s ruling.

Grosky added that, while the option had been presented, he told MASC that he didn’t believe the committee wanted to look at hiring an interim superintendent to serve until the choice of a permanent replacement could be made.

“I think we should try to find a full-time superintendent,” said Melbourne. “Let’s move forward and see how we do, and then we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“Some of us have had experience long in the past with a series of interims and it doesn't do any good for the system,” added committee member Carla Rabinowitz.

The committee, without a formal vote, agreed that seeking a permanent replacement was the preferred course of action.

Chauvette’s motion to seek bids from three search services was approved unanimously.

The Athol Daily News reached out to both Grosky and Fernandes but did not hear back before deadline.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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