BY ANGELO LYNN
BRANDON — The search for a new superintendent at RNESU to replace retiring Supt. Jeanné Collins will take a hiatus of several weeks after the preferred candidate in an initial search declined RNESU’s offer.
The Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union School Board had offered the superintendent position to Zach McLaughlin last Friday, but over the weekend Dr. McLaughlin declined the position to take another position.
Board chair Laurie Bertrand said the board wants to pursue a thoughtful and deliberate process in its choice of a new superintendent and to that end will put the search on hiatus until after a new board meets following Town Meeting Day. Bertrand said it was likely that the new board would form a new search committee at its March 23 meeting and “start anew.”
“We’re back at square one, really,” Bertrand said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “I think we still have some time. We’ll have three months this spring and hopefully we can have more of the process be in-person and not always remote.”
The school district community was to have met the three superintendent candidates in a virtual forum last Thursday, with the candidates touring the schools in person and an in-person public meeting, but because the snowstorm dumped almost a foot on the Brandon area, those meetings were held virtually only.
Bertrand explained that of the three candidates who were finalists for the position, one withdrew ahead of Thursday’s virtual forum because she accepted a position at Washington Central, and the other withdrew after she learned the position was offered to Dr. McLaughlin. That candidate would still be in the running, Bertrand said, but would be required to reapply in the new search process.
Bertrand explained that the board had attempted to get a jump on the superintendent search process and get it done well before a new board was established at Town Meeting, but since that did not happen the next best step was to delay until after the new board is established and then start anew.
Bertrand added that the public would likely be involved in the search process much as in this past search process, and that the search committee would be seeking public input.
RNESU OPEN SEATS
Of the six seats on the RNESU board that are up for election, three seats are unchallenged and held by existing board meetings who are running for re-election, and three seats are open with no announced candidates. Two of those open seats represent the towns of Leicester and Pittsford, respectively, while another represents an at-large seat.
Write-in candidates will be encouraged to come forward to fill those seats, Bertrand said, saying she thought candidates would need to collect 60 signatures — from any town within the school district — to be elected if they remain unopposed. If a seat remains vacant after Town Meeting, the newly elected school board can solicit interested residents and appoint them. All appointed and write-in candidates are one-term only and would face a public race the following year.
“It’s the first time in several years that there have been so many open seats,” Bertrand said, suggesting that it may be because of “the pandemic and everything else going on that people just don’t want to add more to their plates. I can understand that… But sometimes people want to serve the schools and just need to be asked. I’m racking my brain trying to think of people in Leicester and Pittsford, and that other at large seat, who might want to be on the school board.”
In other school news, Bertrand said the board:
• had hired a nationally recognized coach from Texas to coach board members on policy governance issues on March 2;
• was focused on passing the proposed budget;
• was still considering a feasibility study to see if the district could build a middle school on land in Pittsford;
• and noted that the district was in the process of hiring an associated principal at the high school, and a new principal at the Leicester school.