MARBLEHEAD — Saying they were grateful to have two qualified candidates capable of leading the district, the School Committee voted 5-0 to offer the superintendent's job to John J. Buckey, the principal of Nantucket High since 2008.
During a meeting Monday night in the high school library, the School Committee read out loud comments they got from references, and gave their impression of the candidates on their visits to the district last week.
If he comes to terms, Buckey would oversee a district of 3,000 students with a budget of nearly $40 million. The new superintendent would also help oversee a project to construct a new elementary school on the site of the former Bell School.
Both candidates earned praise from the five-member board, which was expected to hold contract negotiations behind closed doors on Wednesday.
School Committee Chairperson Sarah Gold singled out the strengths of the other finalist, Watertown Assistant Superintendent and Swampscott resident Theresa McGuinness. Gold praised her administrative experience, grant writing and management skills, and her ability to build relationships, including her thoughts on the School Committee and superintendent relationship. McGuinness also has familiarity with Marblehead as the former principal of the Village School from 2012 to 2018.
However, the district was looking for a transformational leader, and the feedback from Buckey's visit was how he "created excitement." Both candidates visited the schools last week with meet-and-greets and public interviews with the school board.
"John's focus on students was what made me excited about his candidacy," Gold said about Buckey, who was Littleton High's principal from 2005 to 2008, and its assistant principal from 2001 to 2005. References spoke about how he was able to "think outside the box" and the importance of mentoring others.
School Committee member David Harris offered kudos to the Search Screening Committee, co-chaired by Jennifer Schaeffner and Sarah Fox, which screened 20 applications and conducted 10 interviews, and "brought forward two outstanding candidates."
"It was a very, very difficult decision," Harris said.
School Committee Vice Chairman Meagan Taylor said Buckey proved the best fit based when it came to the candidate profile "everyone put together." Comments about him included that he was "articulate, respectful, calm, empathetic," Taylor said. Others included that he had a sense of humor and strong communication skills.
"Every time he went into a classroom, he engaged with students," including speaking Spanish in a Spanish language classroom.
Buckey earned his doctorate in education from Northeastern University in 2014, and holds a master's degree in education from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, which he earned in 2000, according to his resume. Schaeffner said the feedback was Buckey has taken the steps necessary to step into the role of superintendent.
Fox said she has had at least 100 communications on the superintendent search, whether it was calls, emails, texts or in-person communication. She said the district was fortunate to have two strong candidates, but for her, Buckey's "excitement in Marblehead was palpable." What the district needs is a transformational leader, Fox said.
Fox motioned to offer Buckey the contract, and after several more members spoke, the full committee raised their hands to do just that.
If the School Committee is able to come to an agreement with Buckey, he would fill a vacancy left by former Superintendent Maryann Perry last spring. Although salary will be hammered out in the contract, the former superintendent was on pace to be earn $189,000 in the past fiscal year. Retired Winchester Superintendent William "Bill" McAlduff Jr. was hired in the interim to guide the school district until a permanent superintendent could be hired.
Buckey's expected start date would by July 1.