, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

New school chief picked

Beverly: Board to negotiate contract for superintendent


---- — The School Committee is offering the job of superintendent to Steven Hiersche of Bourne, citing his depth of experience.

Hiersche is the interim executive director for the ACCEPT Education Collaborative, and he served 17 years as a superintendent in Hopkinton, Framingham, Watertown, Plymouth and Orleans. He was also a principal in Vermont for nine years. He has a master’s degree in education from Westfield State College and a doctorate in education from the University of Sarasota.

The vote at last night’s meeting gave Hiersche the job 5 to 2, with the board making the choice unanimous on reconsideration. It remains now for the committee to negotiate a contract.

Two members, Kris Silverstein and Annemarie Cesa, gave their support initially to Wellesley High Principal Andrew Keough, praised for a dedication to kids that extended to joining them in activities like ceramics. “He had me at clay,” said Silverstein. But member Matt Kavanagh countered, “You can’t ignore the wealth of experience that (Hiersche) brings to the table. ... I think he’s better than anyone else in front of us.”

“I believe he is the strongest candidate,” echoed David Manzi. “He can hit the ground running.”

He took longer to answer the board’s questions, noted Maria Decker, “because he has so much experience.”

“I have no reservations about his management style,” said Paul Manzo. Given the possibility of tight budgets, Hiersche had given a delighted Manzo a unique reaction. “He was the only one of the four candidates who said you just need to get a bigger pie,” he smiled. “Go out and get more resources.”

Offering his support for Hiersche, Mayor Bill Scanlon pointed out that the educator has committed to give Beverly five years.

Misgivings about Hiersche include the fact that he will continue to live in Bourne, although it was suggested he could stay in Beverly during the week. “My concern isn’t just that he doesn’t live in the city,” said Manzi. “He’s two hours away.” He added, “I’m a little cautious of his style to a degree. ... Some people are going to love it. Some people are not going to love it.”

“He has a big personality,” noted Kavanagh.

Cesa noted that Hiersche had won the superintendent’s job in Mashpee earlier this year only to have contract negotiations break off and another candidate given the job. Not mentioned was a May 10 article in revealing that “some school committee members expressed concern about Dr. Hiersche after Framingham media outlets alleged that school officials had mishandled sexual assault cases while Dr. Hiersche led the district.” But his supporters on the Beverly board dismissed the Mashpee matter as a contract dispute.

Two other candidates, Beverly High School Principal Sean Gallagher and Revere Assistant Superintendent Christopher Malone were never seriously considered during the hourlong discussion, with the board regretting a lack of comparable experience. Both were praised, however, with Gallagher singled out for his potential.

“He’s had tremendous success here,” said Kavanagh. A lack of a doctorate hurt his prospects. Yet, several members revealed that their high school student children had lobbied in Gallagher’s favor.

“He’s at the football games,” enthused Manzo. “He’s a cheerleader for Beverly High School.” But as for becoming superintendent, “I don’t quite see him there yet.”

Decker noted that there were 45 inquiries regarding the position and 23 applications with 16 of those analyzed by Interim Superintendent Albert Argenziano. A committee of parents, teachers, administrators, citizens and a School Committee member whittled the choice down to four.

Argenziano was saluted for his efforts in leading the search for a permanent superintendent. There was agreement on the committee that they’d been given the opportunity to choose between four excellent candidates.