Lowell Supt. Search Draws 22 Applicants
LOWELL -- The application period for the next superintendent of schools position closed Tuesday afternoon with 22 applications, according to Connie Martin, chairwoman of the Superintendent Blue Ribbon Committee.
“It’s right in line with what we saw the last search,” said Martin, who is also a member of the School Committee. “I think it gives us a reasonable pool of talent to start the screening process.”
She said the number of applicants may increase slightly due to an error affecting the receipt of emails sent to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which is facilitating the search, shortly before the 3 p.m. close of the application period.
Mayor William Samaras said he is happy with the number of applicants.
“I’m hoping they meet the needs of our school department,” he said. “This is an important juncture in our time.”
The Superintendent Blue Ribbon Committee is expected to meet in executive session to review the applications on April 9. At subsequent meetings, the committee will interview candidates and, on April 26, select a pool of finalists to submit to the School Committee for consideration
The names of the finalists will be made public, though, like in many other school districts, the full list of applicants is not being released.
Just who might be applying? The most recent superintendent, Salah Khelfaoui, was an outside hire, as was Chris Scott, who served as superintendent from 2008 to 2011.
But former Superintendent Jean Franco, who picked up where Scott left off, was an in-district hire and working as the deputy superintendent when she was selected for the top position. A number of internal candidates have made it to the finalist pool in recent searches as well.
Currently, plenty of Lowell Public School employees have an up-to-date “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license. A license, or eligibiity for this license, is one of the requirements in the district’s job posting.
The district’s two current assistant superintendents, Billie Jo Turner and Robin Desmond are, of course, among the ranks of licensed employees.
So is Rebecca Duda, coordinator of the Family Resource Center. She has been licensed as a superintendent since 2012 and reportedly has an application in for the school’s top position.
Paul Schlichtman -- coordinator of research, testing and assessment -- has held a license since 2007, dating back to when he was one of four finalist vying for the Lowell superintendent position in 2008. Ultimately, the position went to Scott. In 2010, he was a finalist for the top spot at Gloucester Public Schools.
Director of Accountability, School Improvement and Professional Learning Nan Murphy has a “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license. Last year she was a finalist for the Wilmington superintendent position.
Additionally, two school administrators have been licensed since mid-July when the Lowell School Committee voted 4-3 to start the process of terminating Khelfaoui. After months on paid administrative leave, Khelfoui was fired by the School Committee in November.
According to records kept by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mary Payne received a “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license on July 30, 2018. Payne, the Acting Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, recently moved up from district support specialist to her current position.
In September 2018, Jennifer Stys McCrystal, director of special education, secured her “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license. However, her future in Lowell Public Schools is unclear. The Reading School Committee offered her that district’s director of student services position in March.
Three of the district’s curriculum coordinators are also licensed: Mathematics Coordinator Jeffrey Gwiazda, English Arts and Literacy Coordinator Melissa Newell and English Language Education Program Coordinator Phala Chea. A fourth person in the curriculum office, District Technology Integration Specialist Arthur Santos Jr., is also licensed.
Former Human Resources Director Anne Sheehy, who requested to be transferred back to the classroom last year, has a “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license. While she was still working in human resources, School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr. pushed to make her position an assistant superintendent.
At the high school, Maria Vejar-Borison, a house dean, is licensed, as are a number of school principals.
This includes Murkland Elementary School Principal Kevin Andriolo, Pyne Arts Magnet School Principal Wendy Crocker-Roberge, Sullivan Middle School Principal Edward Foster, STEM Academy Principal Jason McCrevan, Greenhalge Elementary School Principal James Neary, Wang Elementary School Principal Matthew Stahl and Lincoln Elementary School Principal Ginger Coleman.
Marianne Busteed, who has one of the most visible positions in the district as the head of Lowell High School, is not licensed as a superintendent or assistant superintendent, according to DESE records. Neither is Brian Martin, a former headmaster of the high school and Lowell politician.
Former Lowell School Committee member Kevin McHugh, however, has been licensed as a superintendent since 2002. George Ramirez, a former Lowell city councilor, has held a “superintendent/assistant superintendent” license since 2017.
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins