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Newton may hire former Brockton superintendent as interim leader of city’s schools

Brockton Superintendent Kathleen Smith addresses members of the Mass. Association of School Superintendents during a 2019 public forum at Malden High School to discuss "grave inequities" in the funding of public education in the state.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The Newton School Committee is expected to decide Tuesday whether to hire a longtime Brockton educator and superintendent to serve as the interim head of the city’s school system for the upcoming academic year.

Kathleen Smith, who led Brockton’s schools as its superintendent, was recommended for the Newton post by the School Committee’s Interim Search Team, according to a June 13 memo from the search panel to the committee.

“She is skilled, collaborative and thoughtful,” the memo said. “We have faith that she is the right person to lead the Newton Public Schools next year.”

If selected by the School Committee during its next meeting, Smith would serve during the 2022 to 2023 school year. She would succeed Superintendent David Fleishman, who is stepping down when the school year ends later this month.

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Fleishman, who was selected to lead Newton’s schools in 2010, announced in April that he is leaving to oversee Jewish Vocational Service in Boston.

The School Committee interviewed Smith during its June 13 meeting. As superintendent, Smith said she would closely monitor the district’s fiscal 2023 budget, which included a reduction of about 20 staff positions to help close a shortfall.

That budget was put in place last month, following a difficult review process and a “no” vote from the City Council.

Smith also said administrators must keep a close eye on the well-being of staff, who have faced difficult times during the pandemic.

“One thing you hear from educators all over is, “We’re exhausted,’ “ Smith told the School Committee. “It’s been a long process. I think we need to be paying attention to supporting our teachers, our educators, all of our support staff.”

Smith worked for more than four decades in Brockton, including her last six years as its superintendent. She has extensive experience as a teacher, coach, counselor, director of community schools, and serving in special education, according to the search team’s memo.After departing Brockton in 2019, she served as interim superintendent in Salem and Weymouth. She is currently the temporary head of Dover-Sherborn’s school district.

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“The Search Team was impressed by her vast and varied experience in a variety of settings and her demonstrated history of leaving her interim districts well-prepared to welcome their permanent superintendents,” the memo said.

Smith holds a law degree from the New England School of Law, according to a copy of her resume included with the committee’s June 13 meeting packet. She also holds an undergraduate degree from Westfield State University, and a graduate degree from Bridgewater State University.

The search team received about 10 applications and interviewed six candidates for the interim position, according to its memo.

“Using an objective method of review, developed from consultation with our staff, candidates were evaluated on a range of criteria including experience as a superintendent of a similar sized district and prior experience as an interim superintendent; as well as communication skills and the ability to strengthen and maintain our existing system wide goals,” the memo said.

The search team consisted of School Committee chairwoman Tamika Olszewski, along with fellow members Cove Davis and Anping Shen. It also included Martine Albama, the school system’s director of human resources and staffing.

A separate search process for a permanent superintendent is expected to be launched later this year, and will include the formation of a Superintendent Search Committee by the end of September and community outreach during the fall, according to a School Committee presentation from last month.

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That search committee is expected to include representatives of the School Committee, community members, plus a mix of public schools administrators, staff, students and parents.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.