Once again, the search is on for a new superintendent in Peabody

PEABODY — The search is on, again, for a new superintendent for the Peabody schools.

The deadline for applications for the position is Oct. 6, and School Committee members said they are hopeful that an earlier jump on the process this year means the district will have a qualified candidate picked by December.

The process should be a familiar one for the committee members. Last year, the committee voted to extend a third one-year contract to interim Superintendent Herb Levine after several finalists were snagged by other school districts just days before the board was to take a final vote.

“In a perfect world, we would like to make a decision by the end of the year,” said School Committee member John Olimpio.

During the last round of interviews, the School Committee was still looking into making a decision in the spring, and several snow days knocked the process back even further.

Once again, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees has been brought aboard to oversee the process. Once the applications are in, Olimpio said the consultant will recommend five candidates to come before the committee for interviews and site visits.

“In any profession, the stronger candidates are usually taken first,” said Olimpio. “By doing this earlier, we are hoping to get the most qualified candidates.”

A critical shortage of superintendent candidates across the state has also increased the need to get a jump on the process, said School Committee member Joe Amico. He said he’s hopeful that some qualified candidates who did not apply last year throw their hats in the ring on this go round.

“We need someone who will keep our momentum going,” said Amico. “We’re in a good place; Dr. Levine has provided stability and done a great job, and he has a great number two in (assistant superintendent) Cara Murtagh.”

While School Committee member Tom Rossignoll said it should be a priority to find a candidate with experience at the high school level, the superintendent has a long list of responsibilities.

“The superintendent has to advocate for the city as well as the students,” he said. “The elementary, middle, and high schools all have to perform to expectations, and (the superintendent) has to hold the principals of all the schools accountable.

The three committee members all said the right candidate has to be someone who is a good communicator within the schools, with parents, and with the public.

“It’s an important job for the city, and we need the right person to help make the school system successful,” said Rossignoll.

At the school committee’s Oct. 10 meeting, there is expected to be a discussion about the timeline for holding interviews and setting site visits to move ahead with the process. The position is advertised with a salary between $175,000-$190,000.

One thing that is most likely for sure is that Levine won’t be coming back for another stint as interim superintendent.

“That’s it,” said Amico. “He’s made it known that this is his last year and we have to move forward.”

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