LENOX — A series of unfortunate events has prevented the School Committee from hiring a full-time superintendent, with the committee opting to suspend their search until next fall.
The Lenox School Committee unanimously voted to put the hiring process on pause amid the unforseen circumstances of schools being closed due to the threat of coronavirus and also unanimously voted to keep Dr. William Cameron as the interim superintendent.
The committee’s Monday, March 23 meeting was held remotely via Zoom video conferencing software, with about 30 participants online, including the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Chris Ketchum and Select Board Chairperson Ed Lane.
David Rimmler, secretary of the Lenox School Committee, referenced the series of novels authored by Daniel Handler, under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, when describing the committee’s five-month search for a full-time superintendent. Rimmler and other members of the committee also called for consistency during a time of uncertainty, pertaining to the opening of schools.
“It’s a series of unfortunate events, that’s how I view this process,” Rimmler said. “While I would hope to have a steady hand at the helm, we do need to recognize that we are going into uncharted waters, and they are shark infested.”
Last October, former Lenox Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly Merrick resigned from her position after 15 months on the job, citing personal reasons for her departure.
Subsequently, Cameron was appointed as the interim superintendent on Friday, Oct. 11. The committee agreed Cameron would work three days per week through the end of the fiscal year on a per diem basis. His contract has an end date of Tuesday, June 30.
Two dozen candidates had submitted applications vying for the position, according to previous reports. A trio of candidates was selected and public interviews were held on Monday, March 2 and Wednesday, March 4 for Judy Rush, Tara Brandt and Gina Flanagan. During the two nights of interview sessions, the three candidates fielded the same set of 13 questions asked individually by the seven school committee members as well as additional questions at the end of each interview.
Following the Wednesday, March 4 meeting, the committee voted to reconvene on Monday, March 16 to further discuss the hiring process.
But on Friday, March 13, it was announced that Lenox Public Schools would be closed for at least two weeks. The closure of schools was extended an extra week, until at least Monday, April 6, per the emergency order placed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Sunday, March 15.
Due to the threat of the spread of coronavirus, all municipal meetings and school committee meetings are being held remotely until further notice.
Robert Vaughan, chairperson of the school committee, referenced the 1918 influenza pandemic when describing the current unprecedented time in history.
“One hundred years ago is the last time anything of this magnitude happened,” Vaughan said. “It’s difficult to go forward hiring a superintendent. There are so many unknowns.”
School Committee member Molly Elliott suggested using the upcoming fall season to plan the next steps in the hiring process, adding that, typically, efficient timing would see the position filled by December or January.
Elliott made the motion to suspend the superintendent search until the fall, and to continue with Cameron as the interim superintendent. The motion carried unanimously, by a vote of 6-0. School Committee member Anne Marie O’Brien was not present for the online meeting.
The committee also released the candidates from consideration of the role of superintendent.
At the conclusion of the public online meeting, Vaughan spoke to the effectiveness of the Zoom video conferencing software, which saw the conference call peak at 35 attendees.
“I’m pleased this actually worked out,” Vaughan said. “I can see 10 faces on the screen and I know there are some teachers and a member of the Select Board present as well.”
The next scheduled Lenox School Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 6 with the committee to discuss and potentially vote on the 2020-21 school year calendar.