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Search panel defies school committee

Refuses to put forth list of five finalists

June 02, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Sources familiar with the process indicate the superintendent search is not going the way the School Committee wants it to.

At the last search committee meeting, sources indicate, the committee voted not to give the School Committee the five names it requested May 25. That leaves just one of the panel's three original candidates in the game, although one source was uncertain whether the non-finalists had formally been informed they weren't being chosen.

School Committee Chairman John Jovan confirmed only one candidate remains without identifying that person, but noted he's been somewhat out of the loop recently because his company sent him to Oklahoma. He said he'll be back by next Tuesday's scheduled school board meeting.

"We have to have a frank discussion of what has transpired and come up with a game plan for the next couple of months," he said, noting the current impasse might mean Southbridge will have to find an interim superintendent. Whether that person would come from inside or outside is likely to be part of the conversation, either on Tuesday or at a special meeting shortly thereafter, Jovan added.

Superintendent Dale Hanley's contract ends June 30.

One observer familiar with the situation, but who asked for anonymity because of it, expects fireworks.

"I think it's going to be a very stormy School Committee meeting," the person said.

He predicted the school board will split on a 4-3 vote, but wasn't sure which way it would go. One option is to stick to the recent request for five candidates, which would potentially mean disbanding the search panel and restarting the process. The other is to accept the remaining candidate and start the process of negotiating with that person.

This person said the search committee members "walked away feeling very strongly the best candidates were put forward." There was a big difference in the votes members gave to the top three — all were "within one vote of unanimous" — compared to all of the others, who had minority support. If they had to recommend enough others to send five to the school committee, he said, "we'd be forced to choose people with significantly low votes."

He declined to say what the vote tally against sending the extra candidates actually was.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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