After a public debacle that gained national attention and disrupted a search for a new school district leader, the Easthampton School Committee decided on Tuesday to pause its search for a superintendent for a year.
The School Committee will seek out a one-year interim superintendent, instead of going through the process of selecting a third finalist after controversies involving the first two candidates selected for the job.
“With all the things going on, I think we’ve made the best decision we could to go for an interim and now let’s put boots to the ground and execute the first step in a solution,” said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who also sits on the School Committee.
The decision to postpone the superintendent search comes after the first candidate who was offered the role, Vito Perrone, addressed the committee chair and executive assistant, both women, as “ladies” in an e-mail. Perrone said he was told that doing so was was a “microaggression” and his offer was rescinded shortly after the e-mail in March.
Perrone, who was the first to air the controversy in public, has said that School Committee Chair Cynthia Kwiecinski told him that the fact that he “didn’t know that [was a microaggression] as an educator was a problem.” Kwiecinski has since told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that while she was insulted by how Perrone addressed her in the e-mail, there were other factors in the decision to rescind his offer.
Then, the committee’s second finalist for the job, Erica Faginski-Stark, withdrew her candidacy after Easthampton students raised concerns about a Facebook page they believed to be Faginski-Stark’s that posted “conservative and transphobic rhetoric a multitude of times,” according to a copy of an e-mail obtained by the Globe that the students sent to LaChapelle.
The fallout from Easthampton’s failed superintendent search has resulted in the small town, just outside Springfield, gaining national attention. One committee member, Shannon Dunham, publicly announced on Facebook that she decided to resign due to health reasons. Dunham recently told the Gazette that her resignation was due to “a combination of things” but that the circumstances around the search process became too stressful, especially since she has been recovering from a stroke she had over a year ago.
During Tuesday’s meeting, School Committee member Laurie Garcia called for a vote to reenter negotiations with Perrone, since he had garnered widespread support from the community. But the effort failed by a 5-2 vote with Garcia and Dunham, who submitted her signed resignation to the committee after Tuesday’s meeting, being the only ones in favor.
“I‘m extremely dismayed that I was unable to convince my committee to vote once again to offer Dr. Vito Perrone the position,” Garcia said. “I feel that is what the students and the educators wanted and asked for, the majority by far.”
The committee plans to reach out to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Monday to solicit guidance on its search for an interim, and expects to restart its search for a permanent superintendent by January 2024.
Adria Watson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @adriarwatson.