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TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex Regional School Committee this week hosted an open forum to begin the search for a new superintendent of schools, as James McCormick has announced his retirement.

Approximately 20 parents attended the forum to have some input as to the type of person they would like to see replace McCormick. The event was moderated by Dr. Louis Amadio, former superintendent of the Leominster school system.

“This type of forum gives the parents and staff an opportunity to give input into a list of skills and characteristics a new superintendent should have,” said Amadio, who began with what he called “brainstorming.”

“This is a focus group to concentrate on the future, not on the past,” he said. “We encourage all the ideas you have, and we can build upon ideas shared by others.”

Amadio said the school board will take all the ideas into consideration as it begins the search.

Pepperell resident Peter Cronin asked what the superintendent’s job description entails.

“I know it’s more than calling off school on snow days,” he joked.

School board member Frederick Wheeler III said the responsibilities of the superintendent include the day-to-day operations of the school district.

“The superintendent hires principals and staff, we hire the superintendent,” he said. “He is responsible to us, and we are responsible to him. That is the way it works.”

Wheeler said the board also passes the school budget, then gives it to the superintendent to work with.

“The superintendent is like the CEO of a major company, and the School Committee is like the board of directors,” he said. “The state also recognizes the superintendent of a regional school district as an entity all to himself.”

Townsend parent Judith Maider said she would like a person “who can mesh three towns together and have a strong high school with all three towns having the same quality.”

“The person has to have a strong understanding of how a regional school district works,” she said.

Townsend resident Lisa Bentall said she wants someone “who is good with figures and numbers.”

“Someone who can make good business decisions without having to make major cutbacks,” she said. “Also, someone who can manage the budget, so we don’t have to pay for things we haven’t had to pay for in the past.”

Debra Kelloway, also a Townsend resident, wants someone who “can attract and maintain quality staff.”

Pepperell parent Kathy Low is seeking someone “who will be sensitive to the burden the schools put on the taxpayers, and who has good arbitration skills for teacher negotiations.”

“That person has to look outside of the financial box,” Maider added.

“The superintendent should value the arts programs within the district,” said Townsend resident Deborah Wheeler.

School board Chairman Joseph Sciacca said the process of the public forum is geared toward the residents and parents, and the members of the board will have little input on this part of the search.

“We want to hear what the parents and staff are looking for, then we will include all of that information when we begin the process of hiring a new superintendent,” he said.

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