By Jonathan Phelps
---- — IPSWICH — William Hart was unanimously selected last night to become the school district’s next superintendent.
Hart has been the assistant superintendent for the Pentucket Regional School District, which includes Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury, since 2005.
Pending contract negotiations, he will succeed Superintendent Rick Korb, who announced in September that he will retire June 30 after 15 years at the helm of Ipswich schools.
The other two finalists were Mashpee Superintendent Ann Bradshaw and Susan Viccaro, superintendent in Regional School District 13, which includes the towns of Durham and Middlefield, Conn.
Before its selection, the School Committee’s main discussion revolved around Hart and Viccaro. While some members favored Viccaro, it was clear that five out of the seven members supported Hart. In the end, Hart was unanimously selected.
Hart accepted the position last night over the phone, and contract negotiations will begin shortly, according to School Committee Chairman Hugh O’Flynn.
Members mentioned his passion, ambition, energy and strengths in technology, community outreach and curriculum as the reason he rose above the other candidates.
O’Flynn said he is hoping to bring the school district to the next level and that of all the candidates, Hart would be “our transformational leader.”
“A leader who could take us to the next level as a curriculum leader and with technology,” he said. “I found his passion very much a positive.”
There were some concerns raised by the board, mostly over his lack of experience with budget development.
“He has not been involved in budgeting. The prior superintendent was a business manager brought in to run the district,” member Jeff Loeb said, noting that “Pentucket has had serious financial problems. … This is no question that is an area is going to have to learn.”
But later in the meeting, Loeb said, “I think he is the right person for us, right now.”
School Committee member Sean Gresh mentioned Hart’s experience as a principal in a small town in Maine and in Leominster.
“He can definitely handle budgets,” Gresh said, also mentioning Hart’s experience with strategic planning.
Committee member Rachel Roesler said Hart has a solid record of success but favored Viccaro because of experience, among other things.
“It is clear he wants to be in a position where he can make his mark,” she said. “I guess my concerns are is if Ipswich is the right place for him or if he is just looking to make a move for himself or for Ipswich.”
Hart was a teacher at Andover High for seven years, according to the search committee. He earned his Ed.D. in school administration from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
The three finalists were selected after an 11-member search committee reviewed materials from 31 applicants and interviewed nine semifinalists. Each candidate visited the school district and had a public interview before the school vacation.
This week, teams visited each of the finalists’ home districts and gave reports at last night’s meetings.
School Committee members said it was a tough decision because all three candidates are suitable for the post.
Korb, who sat through the whole meeting, congratulated the board on its decision and said he would assist in any way.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.