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Newton superintendent finalist withdraws, leaving two candidates to lead city’s public schools

Candidates from New Bedford and Natick are now being considered as finalists.

The Underwood Elementary School in Newton.Andres Picon for The Boston Globe/FILE

One of three finalists for Newton schools’ superintendent position abruptly withdrew from consideration Wednesday, just two days after city officials announced he was a candidate for the job.

Newton school leaders were informed by its search consultant, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, that Peter Light, who leads Acton-Boxborough’s regional district, had withdrawn his candidacy, according to Julie McDonough, a Newton Public Schools spokeswoman.

On Monday, Newton leaders announced three finalists to lead the city’s schools, all of whom are serving as current superintendents: Thomas Anderson of New Bedford, Natick’s Anna Nolin, and Light. All three have been in their current roles since 2018.


Light, in a brief e-mail to the Globe Wednesday, said he would stay in his current role.

“I am grateful and honored to have been considered a finalist for the Newton Superintendent position,” Light said. “After carefully thinking about my priorities, I have decided to remain at Acton-Boxborough. I am confident that Newton will find a wonderful Superintendent and I am excited about continuing to work on behalf of students at Acton-Boxborough.”

Tamika Olszewski, who leads the School Committee and was a cochair of the superintendent search panel, did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday.

Anderson and Nolin will come to Newton separately for in-person tours of the schools, meetings with staff, to participate in virtual community forums, and interviews with the School Committee.

Nolin will come to Newton on Feb 15, followed by AndersonFeb 16.

Full schedules for the candidate’s visits and interviews will be posted to the School Committee’s superintendent search page at, a statement said.

Olszewski said the tentative schedule is for the board to discuss selecting a finalist on Feb. 17.

In separate introductory statements submitted by the finalists for the Newton post, each provided an indication of how they’d approach the job.


Thomas Anderson

Anderson, the superintendent in New Bedford, leads a public school enrollment of nearly 13,000 students and oversees a budget of $215 million.

He described himself as being in the “human development business” and wrote “that learning must be viewed as a reciprocal, lifelong journey that promotes active learning, sparks enthusiasm, and builds confidence through engagement, and critical and analytical thinking.”

He also wrote lovingly about his father, who grew up as a sharecropper in rural South Carolina. Anderson’s father, who is now retired after 40 years as a factory worker, has offered him advice, including a reminder that “You treat people how you want to be treated.”

“Taken in perspective those words have helped keep Thomas grounded and humble, appreciating the love and guidance from his family,” Anderson said.

Anna Nolin

Nolin, Natick’s superintendent, leads a district with 5,300 students and an $83 million budget.

Nolin, who described herself as an “open and curious learner,” said that Newton has many critical investments in its schools, hired a strong workforce, has an engaged governing team, and “has created conditions for increased excellence.”

Newton’s schools now require “inspiration and vision from a teacher-superintendent with a track record for coordinating action and renewal so we magnify Newton’s excellence and personalize learning for all students,” she said.

She said she brings a head-teacher orientation to her work as a superintendent, and “would cherish Newton’s students, inspire them to excellence, and lead an organization that ensures their belonging and connection while surfacing passions for futures they choose.”


The finalists were selected from a slate of 17 applicants for the position. The search committee narrowed that field to seven candidates, and made its recommendations following a round of interviews last month.

The committee also drew upon feedback from families, staff, and community members about the qualities they wanted to see in a new superintendent.

Newton’s public schools have 12,000 students and 2,500 employees, and operate on a current budget of about $262 million.

A job description for the superintendent post said the School Committee was looking for a “mission-driven, values-led individual with exceptional communication skills and a strong record as an instructional leader.”

Newton’s schools have been without a permanent leader since the departure of longtime Superintendent David Fleishman, who left last year after more than a decade to head Jewish Vocational Service in Boston.

Last summer, school officials hired Kathleen Smith, a former Brockton superintendent, to oversee the district as interim superintendent during the current academic year.

The job would come with a salary in the range of $300,000. In 2021, Fleishman’s last full year as superintendent, he earned about $355,000, according to city payroll records.

Officials expect to have a new superintendent in place by July 1.

This story has been updated to reflect Light withdrew as a candidate for the Newton superintendent position.

John Hilliard can be reached at