The Randolph School Committee took one step closer Monday night toward resolving uncertainty in the district by filling a seat on the seven-member panel.
At a joint committee of the Town Council and School Committee, Bruce J. Pontbriand was appointed by an 11-1 vote to the seat recently vacated by Sharon Swain. Pontbriand lost the contest for a seat won by Tina Fegan on Jan. 14 by a single vote after two ties. Fegan succeeded Larry Azer, who stepped down after 10 years.
Having filled two unexpected vacancies in less than a month, the School Committee still must find a replacement for Superintendent Oscar Santos, who announced in November that he would not seek to renew his contract, which expires June 30.
The committee had started an internal search for Santos’ successor for a one-year contract, but decided Monday to expand the search to external candidates if they don’t receive enough qualified candidates. As of Monday night, Randolph’s school finance director, Steven Moore, was the only applicant.
School Committee member Ida Gordon said during the Monday meeting that Santos “has done well” and she wished he would stay on. She said she was concerned that the search for his replacement has yielded only one candidate.
“I don’t think the School Committee is doing its best for the students,” she said.
The school system of nearly 3,000 students has made significant progress since 2008 when it was rated by the state Department of Education as an under-performing district and was threatened with state takeover unless improvements were made. That year, Randolph voters approved a tax-limit override to help pay for improvements.
Santos was hired in 2010 at an annual salary of $150,000. But despite some measurable progress during his tenure, like bringing the four-year graduation rate from 66.7 percent in 2010 to 70.7 percent in 2012 and instituting unannounced teacher checks, the district did not meet the state’s goals in narrowing proficiency gaps, except for Asian students, according to the state education department.
In August 2012, the School Committee gave Santos mixed reviews in his evaluation. In November he announced: “It is clear that my priorities are not aligned with the priorities of the majority of the Randolph School Committee. As a result, I’ll be moving on.”
In a recent phone interview, Santos would not say where he is seeking employment next, but said, “Wherever I go, I will be a champion for students.”
Pontbriand, a teacher in Boston, called Santos’ departure “disappointing" and said “turnover like this doesn’t sustain and support the system.”
Jim Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.