By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex Regional School Committee deferred making a decision on selecting its next superintendent at its meeting Tuesday night, deciding instead to wait until later this week.
The committee did, however, eliminate Jim O’Shea from the running because of his lack of experience running an entire district.
The three finalists were each given 15 minutes to discuss how they would present a Proposition 2 1/2 override to the three member communities, as well as what they would do to get themselves acclimated into the district.
* Joan Landers, superintendent of Wakefield schools, is a candidate for a doctorate of education at Cambridge College and has more than 20 years of teaching and administrative experience. Before becoming superintendent in Wakefield, she held various positions in the district, including assistant superintendent of curriculum, assistant superintendent of student services and director of special education.
* Barbara Malkas is deputy superintendent of Pittsfield schools and holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Sage College of Leadership. She was previously assistant superintendent and curriculum coordinator.
* O’Shea, who was eliminated is principal of the Bromfield School in Harvard. He was previously principal, assistant principal and dean of students at North Middlesex Regional High School. He has a master of arts in secondary education from Suffolk University and a certificate of advanced education specialization in education administration from Boston College.
The fourth candidate, Susan Givens, was eliminated because of her lack of experience in the education field.
Arnie Silva, a member of the School Committee, said he needed time to review his notes before making a final decision, and along with Mike Morgan and Jonna Clermont, voted against eliminating O’Shea.
“I don’t think we’re doing the right thing moving forward tonight. You’re giving two of the candidates some justice and logic in your mind but you really aren’t thinking through all of the presentations,” Silva said after a motion was made to narrow down the candidate pool to two.
“I was impressed with all the presentations but not necessarily some of the reasons you’re presenting,” Silva said. “I wrestle with what we should show. I don’t know the answer yet. If I was forced to pick two tonight, which I wouldn’t want to do, I look at things differently. We maybe need someone to look at this who hasn’t done this yet. I say that only because I think the largest issue we have is this override and the community coming together. I don’t dismiss Jim because of that. If we push this motion forward, I wouldn’t support it.”
The committee voted 4-3 to eliminate O’Shea. Two committee members, Rob Templeton and Ken Brown, were absent.
School Committee member Sue Fitzgerald said that while she respects O’Shea, she was unsure whether the position is a good fit for him right now.
“At the point we’re at with our budget and where we are in replacing this building and our budget, we need a candidate who doesn’t need as much on the job training,” she said. “I like him as human being but personally, where I am, not for this district, not at this time.”
Randee Rush, also a member of the committee, agreed, saying she didn’t feel this was the proper district for O’Shea to be a superintendent.
“Three really good candidates. I think Jim could do the superintendent job but I’m not sure if going from a principal job to a big superintendent job like this is good. I think he could do the job but it would be a lot. Joan (Landers) has the experience as a superintendent,” she said.
Jonna Clermont, of Pepperell, said she was hesitant about Malkas because of her emphasis on curriculum, something Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Deb Brady already does.
“I see Barbara as a Dr. Brady with the curriculum and everything. We already have that here,” she said.
The full committee meets again Thursday and will likely make a decision.