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Mascnic moving forward with search for new principal

GREENVILLE — Although questions about the circumstances of Mascenic High School Principal Trevor Courtney’s upcoming departure persist, the district is moving forward with the hiring process for his replacement. And the community will be given the opportunity to be involved in the selection.

The committee will be made up of a mix of parents, community members, teachers and district officials who will be tasked with sifting through the candidates for a new principal, Interim Superintendent Betsey Cox-Buteau told a gathered crowd at the School Board’s Monday meeting.

The committee will be charged with selecting finalist candidates to present to the School Board for approval. The board will then conduct its own interviews and make the final selection, said Cox-Buteau. She asked the board to consider whether they wished the committee to present one finalist candidate or multiple candidates for consideration.

Some parents at the School Board meeting protested the way the announcement that Courtney would not be returning was handled.

Cox-Buteau said Courtney’s departure was a personnel matter, and both she and the board are unable to comment further on the reasons behind it.

New Ipswich resident Deborah Holmes questioned the timing of the announcement. She said she was surprised such a decision had been made while an interim superintendent was serving, and not the district’s permanent replacement.

School Board Vice Chair Tara Sousa pointed out that the intent when hiring a interim superintendent is to continue moving the district forward, and not merely to have a person in the position as a placeholder.

Cox-Buteau added that Ruthann Goguen, the district’s new superintendent, who will step into the role at the end of the current school year, will be heavily involved in the new hiring process.

Holmes also said she was not in support of Courtney leaving the district, saying, “I think he was a wonderful principal.”

New Ipswich resident Bethanne Tatro told the board they should have been more proactive in informing the district parents about the decision, and not let parents and students learn about it through rumors and the newspaper.

The district had posted the principal position on SchoolSpring, a job-search site devoted to open positions for educators, last week and on March 29 posted an official announcement of the principal search on the district’s website.

Mascenic student representative to the School Board Shawn Thibault told the board the announcement that Courtney would not be returning next year had been a major topic of discussion among students.

“It’s hard for us to not know what’s going on. The majority of student like him and view him as a good leader, so it’s just difficult and confusing,” he said.

The district has gone through several shifts in district officials in the past two months. In February, the district announced its final choice for a new superintendent, Ruthann Goguen, who will be taking over the position at the end of this school year. The changeover will happen just as Courtney will be officially vacating his position as principal.

At the same time, there has also been a changeover in the majority of the makeup of the district’s School Board members. During election in March, both of the town’s incumbent representatives on the School Board, including the former chair, Chad Gibson, were ousted in favor of newcomers Jim Kingston for New Ipswich and Richard Wallace in Greenville. And then, almost immediately following the election, the School Board accepted the resignation of New Ipswich representative Chris Lund, leaving Jeff Salmonson of New Ipswich and Tara Sousa of Greenville the only board members with experience on the board.

The board voted last week to appoint Earl Somero as the replacement New Ipswich representative, citing his former seven years of experience on the School Board as a major factor in the decision.

The high school principal search committee will consist of 12 people, including a parent, a community member, three teachers, a member of the SAU office, three school administrators, a representative from the Special Education Department and a School Board member. The candidates for the committee are expected to be finalized today, Cox-Buteau said in an interview Wednesday, and the committee will be able to begin reviewing resumes by April 15.

The committee will do the original screening process and interviews, and present candidates first to Cox-Buteau as well as the district’s incoming permanent superintendent, Ruthann Goguen. The School Board will then have the final say.

Community members who are not selected for the committee will have the opportunity to meet the finalist candidates and fill out opinion questionnaires during meet-and-greets and school visitations that will be scheduled when the pool has been narrowed, Cox-Buteau said.

“This decision is on the fast track,” Cox-Buteau said Wednesday. “We’re hoping to have a decision by the end of May at the latest. We have plenty of candidates so far, many well-qualified, so we expect to be able to make a decision by then without a problem.”

The School Board will meet next on April 15 at 6 p.m. in the Mascenic Education Center in Greenville.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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