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Bodie takes Arlington superintendent's job

Posted by Tom Coakley  March 26, 2010 10:06 AM

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By Brock Parker Globe Correspondent

After filling the role in an interim capacity for more than two years, Kathleen Bodie has accepted an offer to become Arlington’s superintendent, despite objections from the school committee chairman, who insisted the search for a new school head should continue.

School Committee Chairman Joe Curran said he was “disgusted” by the superintendent selection process and he refused to vote on a motion to effectively offer Bodie the job.
He said Bodie had an opportunity to be considered for the superintendent job, but she withdrew her name from consideration before three finalists were announced.

“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Bodie, who has been with the school district for about 10 years, said she had withdrawn her candidacy because of politics in Arlington, but she would not elaborate about why she pulled out. Thursday she said she had accepted the offer to be Arlington's superintendent.

Bodie has been serving as the interim superintendent in Arlington since August of 2008 when former Superintendent Nate Levenson resigned amid a flurry of controversy involving the litigation of two Ottoson Middle School employees he fired after claiming they were exchanging inappropriate emails. Two years later the litigation continues, and the case at times has had a divisive effect on the School Committee.

Before she took the Arlington job, Bodie had been seeking a position outside the district, and was named a finalist in the Swampscott superintendent search this month.
Bodie said Thursday she withdrew her candidacy in Swampscott to accept the job in Arlington. She will earn $160,000 a year.

She said she reconsidered her candidacy for the Arlington job because there was “tremendous support” in the district for her to take the job and she wanted to continue working with the colleagues she has in the district.

“I’ve enjoyed all of my years here,” Bodie said.

Her decision ends a search process that began in January, when the School Committee
launched a superintendent search committee to screen candidates. The committee chose three finalists, but finalist Christopher Farmer , the superintendent in Gloucester, accepted a job with the Triton Regional School District.

The committee also decided that they did not want to hire the other finalists: Eric Ely , superintendent in Schenectady, N.Y. and Kelly Clenchy , superintendent of Regional School Unit #25 in Glenburn, Maine.

When none of the finalists were hired, Curran said he wanted the superintendent search to be re-opened. He said he was “troubled” by the proposal to ask Bodie to reconsider her candidacy and begin negotiating a contract with her if she would accept the job. Curran said he did not believe Bodie has enough experience for the job.

“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.

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.”

School Committee member Ronald Spangler , who, like Curran abstained from the vote, said he did not think Bodie should be considered for the job because he said she doesn’t have the support needed from people outside of the school system.

But committee member Leba Heigham, who was 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 Thielman also voted to ask Bodie to consider taking the Arlington job.

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

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