The search for a new superintendent is coming to a close as the School Committee finishes publicly interviewing the final candidate for the position which was left vacant by former superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi in May of 2016.
When Superintendent DeRuosi announced that after five years as superintendent for the district of Malden he would be switching over to the district of Saugus, Charles Grandson was chosen as interim superintendent after an intense selection process, and has temporarily assumed the position since.
The search committee in place determined 13 potential candidates and the list was soon narrowed down to five: interim superintendent Grandson, former Malden High School principal Dana Brown, headmaster of Somerville High School John Oteri, East Haven superintendent Portia Bonner, and Holbrook superintendent Patricia Lally.
During the past week, each candidate was interviewed extensively by the school committee which consists of one member representing each of Malden’s wards and Mayor Gary Christenson as chair.
Each meeting began with the same general proceedings: the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence for veterans and fallen soldiers, and a roll call to make certain that all committee members were present. Interviews began promptly with opening statements followed by a period of questions directed at the candidate by the committee members and ending with closing statements.
The first interview conducted on March 28, 2017, looked at interim superintendent Grandson and stood out as interview directed mostly towards the possible plans he has for his potential future in the position. Grandson has demonstrated his abilities to lead the district during his time as superintendent and believes that with the grants he hopes to acquire, his past experience as an educator, and the positive change he’s been able to bring about during his short tenure in the position, he will be able to excel in the position.
Shortly after Grandson’s interview, Dr. Patricia Lally was interviewed. Her past experiences with successfully raising test scores and introducing virtual classrooms in both Holbrook and Tewksbury as well as her belief in the importance of respect drove her argument.
The next day, on the 29th of March 2017, former MHS principal Dana Brown’s interview took place in the evening, followed by Dr. Portia Bonner’s interview. Brown has contributed 13 years of his career to the betterment of Malden High, serving as principal before retiring after the 2015-2016 school year. His position has been assumed by current principal Edward Lombardi, but Brown hasn’t left the memories of his students, many of which signed a formal petition to vocalize their support for Brown and attended his interview which ended with a standing ovation. Sophomore Agatha Silva shared that she signed the petition because “[Mr. Brown] not only wants what’s best for the schools, but what’s best for the students.” Silva explained further that “he took the time to get to know each and every student at MHS and make everybody feel like they belong.” Brown stated that “[he is] honored to be considered for the position of superintendent” and “although the challenges we collectively face are many, the opportunities for growth and success are greater.”
The final interview took place the on March 30, 2017, with the last candidate being Somerville High School’s Headmaster John Oteri who grew up in Malden and has been involved with Somerville education since 1999, when he began teaching as a social studies teacher, before becoming assistant principal. Later, in 2012, Otori assumed his current position as headmaster of SHS. He described his educational creed as one based on respect, student-centered learning, and realism.
Otori’s realistic outlook was proven during his questioning period which he established that, while SHS still faces learning gaps in special needs education and ELL programs, he’s proud of the accomplishments he has helped the school achieve some of which are the 91.9% graduation rate, the jump from a Level 3 to a Level 1 school, and the lowered 1.45% dropout rate. He hopes to help Malden achieve the same goals to “shatter the perception that this is an underperforming district.”
While each interview was different and was tweaked to fit to the qualifications and the needs of each candidate, overarching concerns expressed by the committee were what each candidate’s goals were, how they planned to achieve as much as possible while staying within the constraints of Malden’s limited educational budget, and how each candidate believed they could address faculty and student needs.
Initially, the committee had planned to hold a referendum in which members would discuss each candidate and vote on which one would be offered the position as superintendent. Due to a loss in her family, a member of the committee was unable to be present for the first two interviews possibly compromising the objectivity of her vote were the committee to vote on Thursday, March 30th, the same day of the final interview. The committee established in a motion that carried six to three it would postpone the official vote until today, April 3, 2017.
The referendum is open to the public and begins at 6:30 pm today at the Malden Senior Center.