SPRINGFIELD — Three candidates in the Springfield superintendent search have been selected as finalists by the Superintendent Search Screening Committee, Chair Imani Hines-Coombs announced at the School Committee’s May 9 meeting.

The candidates’ names were also previously stated at the Ad Hoc Superintendent Selection Advisory Committee meeting on May 8, in accordance with the timeline approved by the School Committee at its Feb. 29 meeting.

The three selected finalists are Superintendent Rene Sanchez of Champlain Valley School District in Vermont; Sonia Dinnall, chief of family and community engagement for the Springfield Public Schools Empowerment Zone; and Springfield Public Schools Lead Chief Schools Officer Kimberly Wells, Hines-Coombs said.
Sanchez is currently a resident of Williston, Vermont, while Dinnall and Wells both reside in Springfield, Hines-Coombs stated.

Despite prior discussions of restarting the search process, the committee is expected to conduct a special meeting with Massachusetts Association of School Committees Executive Director Glenn Koocher to discuss how to move forward with reviewing the three candidates, as stated by Ad Hoc Committee Chair Chris Collins.
While discussing the meeting, Collins stated that he would contact Koocher about dates that he can meet with the full School Committee.

According to the official timeline, the School Committee has until May 29 to visit the candidates’ school districts. Then, on May 30, the School Committee is scheduled to interview the three candidates and select a superintendent.

Graduation and dropout rates

At the May 9 meeting, Business Information Systems Manager Elise Bernice presented the graduation and dropout rates for Springfield Public Schools, looking at trends from 2012 to the recently released 2023 data.

In reviewing the data, Bernice stated that the district’s four-year graduation rate has decreased in 2023 after increasing since 2012. In 2023, the four-year graduation rate was 83.1%. This trend is also true for the five-year extended graduation rate in 2022 while the five-year graduation rate increased slightly. In 2022, the five-year extended rate was 88.8% and the five-year graduation rate was 86.2%.

Bernice explained that the decrease in the four-year graduation rate is likely a result of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to reinstate the graduation requirement to pass the MCAS test, which had previously been removed during the coronavirus pandemic.

A similar trend was reported for dropout rates. This rate decreased significantly in 2021 before increasing again in 2022, Bernice said. The rate again increased in 2023 and reached 4%.

This trend is due to the challenge of reporting dropouts that occurred during remote learning in 2021, Bernice stated. As a result, the data between 2022 and 2023 is “a little bit more reflective of reality,” she said.

When compared to similar districts, Springfield Public Schools’ four-year, five-year and five-year extended graduation rates were all higher while the district’s dropout rate was lower than five of the six comparison districts, Bernice said. The comparison districts were Chelsea, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, New Bedford and Southbridge.

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