© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Search for new Springfield schools superintendent narrows to three finalists

Springfield Public Schools
City of Springfield
Crest of the Springfield Public Schools system.

Members of the Springfield School Committee are asking for more details as the search for a new superintendent enters its final stages. 

After months of debate, walkouts and at least one fiery press conference, the school committee will soon get to know the finalists vying to be superintendent of Springfield Public Schools.

That is, before they resolve some lingering questions on what their next steps entail.

This past week, the committee convened for a full, relatively calm meeting that featured members getting through a majority of items without much issue.

It was a far cry from a meeting in April that featured four members walking out, causing a recess and scramble to get one of them back to vote on items such as approving field trips.

Thursday's meeting also came soon after a screening committee made up of educators and community members advanced three final candidates for the school committee’s review.

The names were presented to both a subcommittee and the full committee by screening committee chair, Imani Hines-Coombs — principal of The Academy at Kiley.

“We're very appreciative for the opportunity and for the privilege of serving on this committee,” she told members of the Ad Hoc Superintendent Selection Advisory Committee after presenting the names at a meeting Wednesday, May 8. “And just to be a part of the next chapter of Springfield Public Schools.”

Those names include Rene Sanchez, superintendent of the Champlain Valley School District in Vermont. Sanchez previously served as a high school principal in Houston as well as an assistant superintendent for operations for the South Bend Community School Corporation.

He also announced in March that he plans to step down from his current role at the end of the school year, with local media reporting he was looking to pursue a new opportunity.

Another candidate was a local: Kimberly Wells, who serves as a Lead Chief Schools Officer for Springfield Public Schools. In addition to working in the district for the past decade, Wells also served as an assistant superintendent at Holyoke Public Schools.

And another SPS veteran made the final cut to replace the retiring Daniel Warwick – Dr. Sonia Dinnall, a former principal of the city’s High School of Commerce, among other accolades. Currently, she’s the Chief of Family and Community Engagement for the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.

The partnership is a non-profit that partners with the district and state to help support more than 5,000 students across 16 middle and high schools in the city since emerging in 2015.

According to its website, the mission involves accelerating “equitable student outcomes at chronically underperforming schools in Springfield.”

All three candidates were formally presented toward the end of the school committee meeting, where some outstanding issues resurfaced.

The committee has been split throughout the superintendent search process, dating back to the start of the year when the process of replacing Warwick was first announced.

Four members have long sought to keep the search as independent as possible, to the point of enlisting an outside law firm to conduct application collection instead of internal legal counsel.

As time went on, more objections emerged, including whether applications that failed to meet minimum requirements should be considered by the screening committee.

During Thursday’s meeting, those same objections briefly emerged, but gave way to committee members asking what exactly comes next in the superintendent search process.

One member, Christopher Collins, said the process would involve the committee “vetting candidates” before public interviews would happen. What exactly that entails led to questions by fellow member, Denise Hurst.

“It sounds like it’s not 100 percent clear as to how it’s going to happen, and if that’s the case, is that not a reason for us to be able to come together for a special meeting and discuss how we can ensure that this happens with some level of uniformity?”

Collins signaled he would reach out to the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committee.

The MASC official, Glenn Koocher, had a significant role in laying out the search process - Collins suggested a full committee meeting with him would be beneficial.

The meeting appears to be set for May 15 at 6:30 pm.

Related Content