By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The School Committee voted 6-0 at its meeting Tuesday night to extend an offer to Frank Pallotta to serve as interim superintendent, pending an agreement on terms. Supt. Victor Mercurio is leaving the district to take a job at Johnson & Wales in December.
Pallotta spent 48 years in education, most recently as superintendent in Burrillville from 2010 to 2018. He also served on the North Providence School Committee for 20 years. He only wants to serve in the interim role, said Chairwoman Carolyn Mark.
“He sort of came out of central casting for an interim superintendent,” said Committeewoman Anne Musella.
Committeeman Gene Quinn agreed, noting Pallotta’s “tremendous” amount of experience. Quinn said Pallotta’s focus on budgets was a real plus, especially since he would be serving as interim during the entire FY2021 budget process.
Committee member Jeff Dronzek said they’d interviewed several highly qualified candidates but “we thought to go for a pure interim,” as opposed to someone interested in applying for the permanent position.
Mark said they hoped the interim would overlap with Mercurio for about a week before he would take over the first of the year. She said she hoped approval of terms would be on the Dec. 3 agenda.
Also on Tuesday, Joe Erardi, the consultant hired by the School Committee earlier this month to lead the search for Mercurio’s permanent replacement, presented an overview of the search.
“It’s an aggressive but doable timetable,” Erardi said.
Under his plan, a new superintendent would be appointed in early February with a start date of July 1. Advertising for the position (in Rhode Island, New England and nationally) will run from Monday, Nov. 25, through Jan. 3.
Starting this week, Erardi is holding a series of meetings, with staff at each of the district’s six schools, with district staff and with the community. The community meetings will take place on Thursdays, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. in the library at Cole Middle School.
Erardi said he would present a community profile at the Jan. 7 School Committee meeting and he would meet that same evening with the committee in executive session to review applicants and assist in the selection of first round candidates.
“My role is that there are no surprises in this entire process,” Erardi said. “Anyone selected for an interview will be vetted. Anyone selected for a second interview will be deeply vetted.”
By state law, members of the School Committee are the only people who can vote on hiring a new superintendent, Erardi explained. That said, the committee can decide to add other members to a “hiring committee.” Those members, however, would hold advisory positions only, he said.
Chairwoman Mark said the School Committee will take up composition of the hiring committee at its meeting Dec. 3.
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