Josh Vadala

PEABODY — The School Committee wrapped up its interviews for superintendent Wednesday night, nominating Revere assistant Superintendent Dr. Joshua Vadala after holding three in-person interviews in an empty Higgins Middle School library.

This after the committee interviewed three candidates Monday night.

In doing so, the committee did not promote its assistant superintendent/interim high school, Christopher Lord, who was a finalist.

School Committee member John Olimpio put forward Vadala’s name, saying he was impressed with all six candidates.

School Committee member Jarrod Hochman said under the circumstances, with other districts competing for candidates, and schools statewide shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, it did not makes sense to hold site visits or string out the process.

“I am very pleased we were able to attract such strong candidates,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt, the chairman of the School Committee, who agreed he saw urgency in needing to move on the appointment knowing other districts might swipe one of these candidates out from under their noses.

“He’s an excellent fit for our district,” said School Committee member Andrew Arnotis.

“This was not a typical process because of the situation here and now because of the times were are in, we are making that decision,” said School Committee Vice Chairman Beverley Griffin Dunne. She said the decision was difficult because they had so many talented educators to choose from. Dunne praised Lord and what he has done for the district.

“I think all of us tonight the high regard we have for him,” said Bettencourt, who said the committee wants him as part of the district’s long-term strategy.

The committee voted 7-0 to authorize Bettencourt to reach out to Vadala and negotiate a contract. The committee took a break, Bettencourt spoke with Vadala by phone in a side room, informed him of the vote, then the committee came back into session announce the results of the conversation.

“I am confident we will be able to negotiate with a very fair contract and I’m very comfortable moving forward as is,” the mayor said.

The vacancy of the city’s school leader came about due to the death of Superintendent Cara Murtagh on Nov. 29 at age 44. Murtagh, a former Peabody assistant superintendent, principal and teacher, had guided the district since July 1, 2018. Retired Newburyport Superintendent Marc Kerble has led the districts of 6,000 students, 10 schools and a $81.6 million budget in the meantime.

On Wednesday, in this order, the committee interviewed Vadala, Omar Easy, the executive director of the Academies of Everett for Everett Public Schools and, Lord.

These educators were among six candidates drawn from an applicant pool of 33 educators on March 10. The School Committee originally named seven educators it wished to interview, but one of the candidates withdrew. The search was aided by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and its executive director, Glenn Koocher.

Vadala, who grew up in Gloucester, attended St. John’s Prep and lives in Peabody has three daughters and is on the board for the Peabody Youth Lacrosse program. His career in education has mostly been in Revere schools.

When asked by School Committee member Brandi Carpenter “What do you know about us?” Vadala said: “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard ‘Why Peabody.?’” It was a question that he asked when his family moved here 10 years ago.

“Peabody, we were drawn here because we thought Peabody would be a great place to raise a family,” he said. The city, he said, has exceeded his expectations and he saw working here as a way to give back.

“Peabody has tremendous pride,” he said, adding, that it was amazing how those in the city rallied around one another after a tragic month in November. Hochman asked about how he would handle the crisis around the coronavirus, and Vadala described how his schools handled students who returned from a school trip in Europe over February vacation.

The students were allowed to return to school, and Vadala worked to allay concerns within the community before the Board of Health.

Then the guidance changed from health officials changed, and those high school students were advised to stay home. Vadala noted that this was on a Thursday at 3 p.m. just before a parent-teacher night at 5 p.m. That prompted a meeting with staff. He also told his staff: “We don’t have all the answers.”

Easy, a former running back in the NFL with a doctorate from Penn State, spoke with passion about how he was appreciative to be interviewed, and spoke about how he had benefited from someone helping him in high school, and wanted to be the one to help students. He also spoke about his role leading academies for Everett as a kind of principal of a principal’s building.

Carpenter asked why Easy applied, and Easy spoke about how he knows the city well, lives about eight minutes down the road, and even competed against the city in football and basketball growing up. His brother also lives in the city. He spoke about how old-fashioned, comprehensive high schools are not longer working, and in admiring the new Higgins Middle School, he said he envisioned it might someday hold a health or STEM academy. He also understood that some of the city’s school buildings “need some tender care and love.”

He also spoke about the creation of academies at Everett High by creating smaller schools within the school.

“The academy model is amazing,” Easy said. “You get students really engaged.”

Bettencourt praised Lord for what he meant to the city over the last few months.

Lord, a North Andover resident, has been working for Peabody schools since July 2018. School Committee Joseph Amico noted he was on the search committee when Murtagh hired him two years ago as assistant superintendent. Lord was selected by Murtagh to be the interim principal this year at the start of the school year to fill a vacancy in that post.

Lord was the principal of Leominster and Andover high schools, and a high school principal in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he was runner up for that state’s principal of the year.

However, despite praise for his leadership, his tenure at Charles E. Shea Senior High School ended when the state intervened over the high school’s graduation rate under a transformation plan that required a change in leadership, according to various reports.

Lord called his selection as the runner up for “principal of the year” one of his greatest professional accomplishments. He also said his greatest personal accomplishment was his two sons, Christopher and George.

“We’ve been privileged to see all you have done in all the roles you have done for us,” said Dunne, praising Lord’s work ethic and the manner in which he makes others feel at ease.

“We are building a Saturn V rocket and we are taking off,” Lord said of the work at the high school.

On Monday, the School Committee interviewed Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District Interim Superintendent Julie Kukenberger, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Teaching for Bourne Public Schools Melissa Eakins-Ryan and Wayland Superintendent Arthur Unobskey, the former assistant superintendent in Gloucester. Kukenberger is presently one of four finalist for the job of permanent superintendent of Hamilton-Wenham, a district she has led since July.

PEABODY — The School Committee wrapped up its interviews for superintendent Wednesday night, nominating Revere assistant Superintendent Dr. Joshua Vadala after holding three in-person interviews in an empty Higgins Middle School library.

This after the committee interviewed three candidates Monday night.

In doing so, the committee did not promote its assistant superintendent/interim high school, Christopher Lord, who was a finalist. 

School Committee member John Olimpio put forward Vadala’s name, saying he was impressed with all six candidates.

School Committee member Jarrod Hochman said under the circumstances, with other districts competing for candidates, and schools statewide shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, it did not makes sense to hold site visits or string out the process.

“I am very pleased we were able to attract such strong candidates,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt, the chairman of the School Committee, who agreed he saw urgency in needing to move on the appointment knowing other districts might swipe one of these candidates out from under their noses.

“He’s an excellent fit for our district,” said School Committee member Andrew Arnotis.

“This was not a typical process because of the situation here and now because of the times were are in, we are making that decision,” said School Committee Vice Chairman Beverley Griffin Dunne. She said the decision was difficult because they had so many talented educators to choose from. Dunne praised Lord and what he has done for the district.

“I think all of us tonight the high regard we have for him,” said Bettencourt, who said the committee wants him as part of the district’s long-term strategy.

The committee voted 7-0 to authorize Bettencourt to reach out to Vadala and negotiate a contract. The committee took a break, Bettencourt spoke with Vadala by phone in a side room, informed him of the vote, then the committee came back into session announce the results of the conversation.

“I am confident we will be able to negotiate with a very fair contract and I’m very comfortable moving forward as is,” the mayor said. 

The vacancy of the city’s school leader came about due to the death of Superintendent Cara Murtagh on Nov. 29 at age 44. Murtagh, a former Peabody assistant superintendent, principal and teacher, had guided the district since July 1, 2018. Retired Newburyport Superintendent Marc Kerble has led the districts of 6,000 students, 10 schools and a $81.6 million budget in the meantime.

On Wednesday, in this order, the committee interviewed Vadala, Omar Easy, the executive director of the Academies of Everett for Everett Public Schools and, Lord.

These educators were among six candidates drawn from an applicant pool of 33 educators on March 10. The School Committee originally named seven educators it wished to interview, but one of the candidates withdrew. The search was aided by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and its executive director, Glenn Koocher.

Vadala, who grew up in Gloucester, attended St. John’s Prep and lives in Peabody has three daughters and is on the board for the Peabody Youth Lacrosse program. His career in education has mostly been in Revere schools.

When asked by School Committee member Brandi Carpenter “What do you know about us?” Vadala said: “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard ‘Why Peabody.?’” It was a question that he asked when his family moved here 10 years ago. 

“Peabody, we were drawn here because we thought Peabody would be a great place to raise a family,” he said. The city, he said, has exceeded his expectations and he saw working here as a way to give back. 

“Peabody has tremendous pride,” he said, adding, that it was amazing how those in the city rallied around one another after a tragic month in November. Hochman asked about how he would handle the crisis around the coronavirus, and Vadala described how his schools handled students who returned from a school trip in Europe over February vacation.

The students were allowed to return to school, and Vadala worked to allay concerns within the community before the Board of Health.

Then the guidance changed from health officials changed, and those high school students were advised to stay home. Vadala noted that this was on a Thursday at 3 p.m. just before a parent-teacher night at 5 p.m. That prompted a meeting with staff. He also told his staff: “We don’t have all the answers.”

Easy, a former running back in the NFL with a doctorate from Penn State, spoke with passion about how he was appreciative to be interviewed, and spoke about how he had benefited from someone helping him in high school, and wanted to be the one to help students. He also spoke about his role leading academies for Everett as a kind of principal of a principal’s building.

Carpenter asked why Easy applied, and Easy spoke about how he knows the city well, lives about eight minutes down the road, and even competed against the city in football and basketball growing up. His brother also lives in the city. He spoke about how old-fashioned, comprehensive high schools are not longer working, and in admiring the new Higgins Middle School, he said he envisioned it might someday hold a health or STEM academy. He also understood that some of the city’s school buildings “need some tender care and love.”

 He also spoke about the creation of academies at Everett High by creating smaller schools within the school. 

“The academy model is amazing,” Easy said. “You get students really engaged.”

Bettencourt praised Lord for what he meant to the city over the last few months.

Lord, a North Andover resident, has been working for Peabody schools since July 2018. School Committee Joseph Amico noted he was on the search committee when Murtagh hired him two years ago as assistant superintendent. Lord was selected by Murtagh to be the interim principal this year at the start of the school year to fill a vacancy in that post.

Lord was the principal of Leominster and Andover high schools, and a high school principal in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he was runner up for that state’s principal of the year.

However, despite praise for his leadership, his tenure at Charles E. Shea Senior High School ended when the state intervened over the high school’s graduation rate under a transformation plan that required a change in leadership, according to various reports.

Lord called his selection as the runner up for “principal of the year” one of his greatest professional accomplishments. He also said his greatest personal accomplishment was his two sons, Christopher and George.

“We’ve been privileged to see all you have done in all the roles you have done for us,” said Dunne, praising Lord’s work ethic and the manner in which he makes others feel at ease. 

“We are building a Saturn V rocket and we are taking off,” Lord said of the work at the high school.

On Monday, the School Committee interviewed Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District Interim Superintendent Julie Kukenberger, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Teaching for Bourne Public Schools Melissa Eakins-Ryan and Wayland Superintendent Arthur Unobskey, the former assistant superintendent in Gloucester. Kukenberger is presently one of four finalist for the job of permanent superintendent of Hamilton-Wenham, a district she has led since July. 

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