Experience in a classroom won out over experience in Acton on Saturday as the School Committee there tapped Sharon Public Schools administrator Glenn Brand to be the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District's next superintendent of schools.
Brand, the assistant superintendent for administration and finance with the Sharon Public Schools, was supported by a unanimous vote from Acton-Boxborough's Transitional School Committee after hours of public interviews, feedback and deliberations on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Impressed with breadth of his experience and potential to lead the high-performing Acton-Boxborough Regional School District into the future, the School Committee chose Brand over two other finalists, including an internal candidate.
The School Committee will now enter negotiations with Brand, with hopes of having a contract finalized within the next week to 10 days, according to Maria Neyland, chairwoman of the Acton-Boxborough Regional and Transitional school committees.
The Search, the Interviews and the Decision
The search for Acton-Boxborough’s next schools chief began this fall, following current Superintendent Stephen Mills's announcement that he planned to retire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Brand emerged as one of three finalists after a nationwide search netted 29 candidates and the Superintendent Search Committee whittled down the pool. Joining Brand as finalists were Quaboag Superintendent of Schools Brett Kustigian and Marie Altieri, the current director of personnel and administrative services for the Acton Public Schools and Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.
All day Saturday, the School Committee held public interviews with the three finalists at RJ Grey Junior High School in Acton, and then took comments and questions from the public before deliberating and voting in an open session.
After the hours of interviews and short public comment, committee member Dennis Bruce, who said he had reservations entering the day that he would see any candidate as A-B’s next superintendent, quickly moved to approve Brand.
In the deliberation that followed committee members focused on Altieri and Brand, agreeing that Kustigian was an impressive “change agent” at Quaboag but might not be ready to make the jump from the smaller district to A-B.
Speaking about the candidates, committee members weighed Altieri’s experience with the district and her “unconventional” career path against Brand’s more traditional experience and his philosophies and potential as an educational leader.
Prior to becoming the director of personnel and administrative services for APS and A-B in 2007, Altieri was a school committee member in Acton from 1999 to 2006. As far as teaching experience, she taught at Hanscom Middle School in 2006 and also taught courses in computer programming and software for nonprofits and businesses as a teacher and course developer at Honeywell.
Before joining the Sharon Public Schools as assistant superintendent in 2011, Brand was the principal at the Pollard Middle School in Needham and principal of Wareham Middle School before that. He began his career teaching elementary and middle school in Ontario, Canada.
For committee member Paul Murphy, what tipped the scale was how he saw Brand through the lens of the district’s mission statement of preparing students for a global society.
“What does it for me is that I know Glenn is not from here, and he has perspective that will be very helpful for the future,” said Murphy. “It’s difficult for me to say this, because I consider Marie a friend as well, but I think Glenn would make a better candidate for the future.”
Wrestling with their familiarity with Marie, both in terms of friendships and the work she’s done for the district, was a common theme among committee members.
Members Michael Coppolino and Deannne O’Sullivan, for example, both said they entered unsure whether Altieri had the qualifications or ability to be the superintendent, but the process of interviewing and meeting with the finalists changed their minds. Committee member Mary Brolin noted experience as a teacher and principals tipped the scale for Brand, though she considered Altieri an outstanding candidate.
Bruce, who made the motion to approve Brand, said he had no doubt Altieri could run the district, but he thought Brand could lead it better. Neyland, the committee chair, echoed the sentiment.
“Teaching experience I think is important,” she said. “The difficulty in supporting Glenn is not lack of belief in him. If this was three external candidates it would be a no-brainer. It just is the difficulty in not being able to support a friend.”
The School Committee voted unanimously Saturday to approve Brand as Acton-Boxborough’s next superintendent of schools pending successful contract negotiations.
Assuming a deal is reached, Brand would begin July 1, 2014. He’ll take over as the district expands to include both Acton and Boxborough from pre-K through Grade 12.