By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex Regional School Committee opted to go with seven focus groups and a 12-member screening committee to aid in the search for a new superintendent.
Superintendent Maureen Marshall announced at the end of last year she would retire in August to pursue other educational opportunities.
The decision came at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting, held at the high school.
The School Committee has been working with Ken DeBenedictis, a consultant with the New England School Development Council, to develop the best course of action to fill the spot in a timely fashion.
If the committee opts to stick with a rigorous schedule set out by DeBenedictis, it could announce a new superintendent as early as April 9.
The School Committee opted to break the focus groups into very distinct categories, including:
* School Committee.
* Teachers and staff.
* School administrators.
* Town officials from Pepperell, Townsend, and Ashby.
* Community at-large.
Each group will have a set meeting time either March 5, 6, or 7, and notifications will be made by the staff at the Central Office.
Susan Robbins, chairwoman of the School Committee, said that seven was the best option. Each focus group, with the exception of the School Committee’s, will cost an additional $365 per meeting above and beyond the price already negotiated for NESDEC’s services.
The School Committee’s focus group is included in the current contract.
“I think seven makes sense,” Robbins said. “They each come together differently. I would hope there would be sufficient interest in each of these to have enough people attend.”
The focus groups would be run by DeBenedictis, who will not only ask participants would like to see in terms of qualities of a potential candidate but also what issues should be tackled within the first six months to a year, he said.
Once all the focus groups are held, the information will be compiled into a report, which will be posted on the district’s website.
“That generates a tremendous amount of data. It’s a full range of things. What I try to do is bring some sense of management to it and come up with major ideas,” DeBenedictis said. “Those major ideas can be a spring plan for your entry of a new superintendent. It could be the foundation piece for the goals. It’s a very useful tool for that very important purpose.”
Additionally, the 12-member screen committee with include two School Committee members, two building level employees, two teachers, one student, one central office representative, one town official, one non-town official, and two parents.
All nonschool employee participants will be chosen randomly at the School Committee’s next meeting, scheduled for later this month.
Interested participants should submit a letter of interest to the Central Office.