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Arlington's superintendent search turns back to interim school head

Posted by Brock Parker  March 24, 2010 01:21 AM

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In a vote that the chairman loudly said he didn't want any part of Tuesday, Arlington’s School Committee effectively made Interim Superintendent Kathleen Bodie the frontrunner to fill the position permanently if she will reconsider her decision to bow out of the selection process.

“I’m disgusted by this process right now and I will not support it,” said School Committee Chairman Joe Curran, who raised his voice before refusing to vote.

But the School Committee voted 4-1, with member Ronald Spangler abstaining, to ask Bodie to reconsider her previous decision to withdraw her candidacy for Arlington’s superintendent position. If Bodie reconsiders, the committee authorized a superintendent search committee to enter negotiations with her to fill the job.

The vote came after the committee Tuesday voted against appointing either of the two official finalists for the job, Eric Ely, superintendent of Schenectady, N.Y., and Kelly Clenchy, superintendent of Regional School Unit #25 in Glenburn, Maine.

Bodie, who has been Arlington’s interim superintendent for two and a half years, had been a semi-finalist to fill the job permanently, but withdrew her name from consideration. She is now a finalist for the superintendent position in Swampscott.

Curran said he was “troubled” by the way in which Arlington’s superintendent search committee recommended Bodie instead of recommending to re-open the search if neither of the two finalists were picked.

“To me, it’s like somebody jumped out of the bushes with a gun and said if this doesn’t work then we’re going to do this,” Curran said, and urged the school committee to re-open the search.

School Committee member Denise Burns, who cast the lone vote against asking Bodie to reconsider, said she was saddened by the proposal.

“I really think if we thought we had a good candidate in Dr. Bodie she would have been superintendent long ago,” Burns said. “She’s not.”

But School Committee member Leba Heigham, who is also on the superintendent search committee, said she believes Bodie has been leading the school district in the right direction. Committee members Joseph Curro, Cindy Starks and Jeff Theilman also voted to ask Bodie to reconsider.

Curro said Bodie has brought calm to the school district after a rocky period and the district needs some stability as it faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit and possibly dozens of layoffs.

“We’re about to lay off an awful lot of staff. We’re about to go through an awful lot of changes, a lot of disruption in the system,” Curro said. “We need someone here who both knows Arlington public schools, who cares about the schools and the kids, who knows and cares about the staff and administrative team.”

School Committee member Ronald Spangler, who abstained, said he does not think that Bodie has the support that is needed from people who aren’t part of the school system to consider hiring her as the permanent superintendent.

“I’d like to be any place other than this room right now,” he said. “I can’t support this motion. I will not oppose it. I will abstain.”

Curran said he doesn’t think Bodie has enough experience and she had an opportunity to be considered for the job before she withdrew her candidacy.

“If somebody didn’t want to be here, and didn’t want to go through the whole process, and all of a sudden we’re going back and we’re begging her to come back in, to me something’s fundamentally wrong with that,” Curran said.

Bodie left the School Committee meeting when the discussion about the superintendent search began Tuesday, and could not be reached for comment late Tuesday after the vote was taken.

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