Kane, Lamarche, and McGoodwin School Committee Interviews ‘Super’ Hopefuls
By: Alex Scofield
The school committee came one step closer to selecting a new superintendent of schools on Wednesday evening, as it interviewed the three final candidates for the position in front of a small audience inside the Bourne High School library.
The school committee posed about a dozen questions to the candidates, dealing with issues ranging from financial management to bullying to the purpose of public education.
The three candidates had made it through a screening process led by the Cape Cod Collaborative’s Center for Executive Search and conducted by a screening committee made up of local school committee members, teachers, administrators, and parents.
Steven Lamarche, the former dean of Bourne Middle School and current director of accountability and operations for the Pembroke Schools, was the first to be interviewed by the committee.
He was followed by Theresa M. Kane, superintendent of Ludlow Public Schools, and Middleton McGoodwin, superintendent of schools for the Marshfield district.
Nancy T. Lane, superintendent of Douglas Public Schools, dropped out of the running for the position prior to Wednesday night’s interviews. She told the school committee that she had withdrawn her candidacy for personal reasons.
Each of the candidates played up their individual strengths.
For Mr. Lamarche, those strengths included his familiarity with the Bourne Public Schools.
Ms. Kane spoke about her skills as a financial manager and her ability to make the most of limited resources.
Dr. McGoodwin spoke at length about his passion for public education and his facility as a communicator.
Each interview ran about 50 minutes, with each candidate being posed the same questions in the same order.
The candidates also displayed their individual communication styles during the interview periods.
Mr. Lamarche mixed in a few jokes, which dated back to his days as a Bourne administrator. He seemed affable, though nervous at times, and often leaned forward in his chair while answering questions.
Ms. Kane apologized to the committee in advance if she lost her voice during the interview, though she never did, because she had presented the Ludlow Public School’s budget the previous evening.
Dr. McGoodwin provided well-organized responses to the questions posed by the committee, though he often excused himself for providing long-winded answers.
School committee member Allen W. Swain said the answers the candidates gave about the value of public education were some of the most telling of the evening.
Mr. Lamarche said the objective of public schools “is to really provide every child the opportunity to be the best student and individual they can be for the rest of their lives,” as well as “to instill in them respect, morals, and empathy.”
Ms. Kane stressed that the goal was to educate “every child, regardless of their ability to learn.”
She added that the public school mission had expanded from teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to providing affordable meals through school breakfast and lunch, and health care through the school nurse’s office.
Mr. McGoodwin said the schools had a responsibility to educate the whole child, and to focus on expanding their ability to learn, rather than just drilling them on specific knowledge areas.
“I think we shortchange students if we only focus only on discrete skills,” he said. “We need to foster their ability to collaborate, work in small groups, work toward goals, work together. Many students are going to be employed in vocations that don’t even exist yet. How can we prepare them for what has not been established or invented? The ability to adapt and to learn and relearn isn’t taught in a textbook or curriculum. Those things are important but it’s the additional skills that truly makes the whole child.”
Mr. Swain said those answers gave a clear window into the candidates.
“It spoke to their level of experience in public schools,” he said. “Those who are superintendents now have a different perspective since they are in the business.”
Candidates also provided illustrative answers on the subject of bullying.
Mr. Lamarche, a former principal in the Pembroke Public Schools, spoke about the concept of “failing forward.”
“We want to be able to provide the best possible outcomes for students, both for those who are being bullied and for those who do the bullying,” he said.
Mr. Lamarche said that meant addressing the causes of bullying, which often start at home.
Ms. Kane spoke about the success of responsive classroom in the Ludlow School District, a program based around the idea of fostering respect among students by improving their interpersonal communication and listening skills.
She also said it was important to have support staff in place whom students can go to when they do not feel safe.
“Some of the most important questions we ask student are, ‘Do you feel safe in the schools, do you have an adult you feel you can trust?’ ” she said.
Mr. McGoodwin said one of his proudest accomplishments as an administrator was pushing forward the safe school’s initiative while in the Marshfield Pubic Schools with help from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, after witnessing bullying and hazing as a middle school principal.
“When people ask me what is the most important thing I do is, I say it’s to provide an environment that is safe, both emotionally and physically,” he said.
Candidates also spoke at length about the distinct responsibilities of superintendents and school committees, with all three agreeing it was the former’s job to run the day-to-day operations of the district while it was the latter’s charge to craft policy and give direction.
After the candidates had left Mr. Swain quipped that the school committee would only need to make two site visits next week, although he would not comment on which candidate he would leave out.
Site visits are planed for Monday and Tuesday of next week. The school committee will choose a candidate on Wednesday evening.
Though Mr. Swain said that he believed there were two clear frontrunners, he said he believed the site visits could still turn the tables.
“One of the things I’m going to look for is how they set up the visit, because it is entirely up to them. Who do they choose for us to meet with? How do they move us through the district? What do those people want to say to us?” he said. “You can usually pick up, if you’re getting a load of baloney or a straight shot.”
At this point, Mr. Swain said, it was still anybody’s game.
“I really do think it is. The site visit is not the only deciding factor, though. We’re going to be looking at all of the other stuff that’s in the resumes and so forth, and the interviews, too,” he said.
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