GROTON — Calling him a man of integrity with leadership skills, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee selected Joseph Mastrocola as the district’s new superintendent yesterday morning.
Mastrocola, assistant superintendent of Peabody Public Schools, was one of the two candidates that the committee had left to choose from after three other finalists withdrew, accepting job offers elsewhere. The committee was hoping to avoid losing any candidate to other districts when it called the special Saturday meeting to speed the hiring process.
If the contractual negotiations are successful, Mastrocola should start on July 1, replacing departing Superintendent Alan Genovese. Following the hiring decision Tuesday, the School Committee immediately entered an executive session to discuss the terms and conditions of Mastrocola’s employment.
The School Committee unanimously voted to hire Mastrocola, but some members expressed hesitation. Members agreed that Mastrocola will be a better fit for the district than the other finalist, Elizabeth Zielinski, assistant superintendent of Quaboag Regional School District, because of his demonstrated budgeting skills. But they said none of the finalists met all of their expectations.
“He comes from a city; he comes from a whole different culture,” Committee member Berta Erickson of Groton. “Doesn’t it bother you that he doesn’t have a regional experience?” she asked the committee.
“It bothers me that we don’t have a perfect candidate,” said School Committee Chairman Jim Frey of Dunstable.
Erickson said the committee could consider reopening the search, hiring an interim superintendent, or sharing one with another district. She made no motion.
Committee member Paul Funch of Groton said Mastrocola’s accomplishments included integrating technologies into education, an area in which the local district has only made limited investment. Mastrocola may have a tough time trying to change the culture, Funch said.
“He is not my first choice frankly,” Funch said, while stressing Mastrocola has enough skills to lead the local district.
Committee member Jon Sjoberg of Groton, however, called Mastrocola “the best candidate by far.”
Sjoberg said comments Mastrocola made during his visit to the district earlier this month shows he has a grip on the district’s needs. Sjoberg also noted Mastrocola’s name consistently appears in the Peabody School Committee’s meeting minutes.
“He is doing stuff,” Sjoberg said. “He’s got the things we are looking for.”
Frey said Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti, who chairs that city’s School Committee, and other district officials all described Mastrocola as a good communicator who has made significant effort to reach out to parents and residents. He is very involved in the district management, including budgeting, Frey said.
Erickson said she also heard high praise for Zielinski as she made reference calls.
Committee member Erik Dichter of Dunstable said Mastrocola has the ability to make people listen, which may be useful in bringing the district together. Committee member Alison Manugian of Groton said both finalists had qualities that the district is looking for.
In the end, the committee voted for Mastrocola, with Erickson showing her support “in the spirit of what this is intended to be.”
Mastrocola, 48, lives in Ipswich. He has 25 years of experience in K-college education, including six years as a literacy specialist for Lowell elementary and middle schools. He has said he will move to the area with his family if he is offered the job. Mastrocola could not be reached for comment Tuesday.