WESTHAMPTON — On June 5, the five school committees of the Hampshire Regional School District voted, almost without dissent, to offer Westhampton resident Vito Perrone the district’s top administrative position.

With current Superintendent Diana Bonneville’s tenure set to end on June 30, members listened attentively as Perrone and Marc Gosselin Jr., the second candidate interviewed for the position, introduced themselves and answered predefined questions. They appreciated that two excellent candidates sought the office.

Gosselin impressed committee members with his experience, breadth of interests and clarity of responses. The examples he offered to illustrate his points were specific and relevant. Especially remarked upon was that Gosselin thought artificial intelligence may benefit his most recent employer, Connecticut Regional School District 12, so he enrolled in a course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn a certification in the technology.

Gosselin served as superintendent for District 12 for just 13 months. He resigned for personal reasons. He also served as superintendent at the Lenox Public Schools for 19 months. He was a supervisor for elementary curriculum and special education for the North Penn School District, in Pennsylvania, and concluded his seven and a half years there as an elementary principal.

Committee members didn’t think Gosselin’s technology and research orientation would be as useful to the district in its current state of turmoil. His employment history made committee members a bit nervous. Don Willard, chair of the Chesterfield Goshen School Committee, summarized the fears.

“My biggest concern is work history, in terms of longevity,” Willard said. “I really want to get somebody that’s gonna come in here, and be here long enough to right the ship and keep us moving along, and that’s going to take longer than two or three years.”

Initially, Gosselin received the Williamsburg committee’s overall vote, with three out of five members favoring him. After caucusing with her committee, member Glenda Cresto, also sitting on the Hampshire Regional School Committee, argued that Gosselin Jr. was spot on in his analysis of the needs of the district.

Cresto and others complained that Perrone’s answers were more ebullient, less focused and consistently ran over the allotted time.

“Every instinct I have says that Dr. Perrone is not the man for this district,” Cresto said. “I really don’t want to change my vote [and] … I know the high school principal really wants to work with him … [but] I’ve seen what charismatic leaders can do and I think he’s one of them.”

Jon Lumbra, chair of the Southampton School Committee, broke the tension by joking that he wanted to hire both candidates. Then, in 18 months, they can appoint Perrone superintendent. But many committee members, especially from Westhampton, strongly preferred Perrone right now.

Committee members commented that Perrone lives minutes away from the school. He knows the difficulties the district faces following an exodus of employees from the Central Office. Perrone knows many educators in the area and will be instrumental in filling the district’s hiring needs.

“People said, ‘Support Dr. Perrone,’” said Cathy Thibideau, a Southampton School Committee member. “Among community members, our neighbors, they said, ‘Please show support for Dr. Perrone.’”

One unidentified committee member knows an employee of the West Springfield school district, where Perrone is currently serving as the assistant superintendent. Perrone was known as a hard worker. The West Springfield district is also fielding some of the progressive curricula that HRSD staff are interested in. That was seen as “a huge asset.”

A member of the Hampshire Regional School Committee representing Williamsburg, Sarah Crowther, preferred Gosselin’s responses and sharp insights. Still, she voted for Perrone.

“Dr. Perrone is in a better position to lead us out of the mess we’re in,” Crowther said.

Southampton School Committee member Dylan Maudsley pointed out that if he failed, Perrone would have to face his neighbors and personal friends.

“Dr. Perrone is here,” Maudsley said. “There’s nowhere for him to run to.”

In his 50s, Perrone said he was looking to be hired for his last career position. Charismatic, excited and well spoken, he also said it was an interesting experience for a superintendent to be all but hired in Easthampton, only to be rejected for using microaggressive language. Committee members did not seem quick to fault him for using “ladies and gentlement.”

Perrone said he is a people person. He acknowledged he’s no “data geek” and more of a hands-on leader. He said he’s more energized by spending time in the halls and classrooms and getting to know the teachers and students.

“I want to understand what happens in the halls,” Perrone said. “Believe it or not, superintendent is not a fun job. What is fun is getting to know the students … That’s what makes this job worth doing. It makes me excited about the possibility of ending my career at Hampshire Regional.”

Marrisa Nye, chair of the Williamsburg School Committee, changed her vote in the last tally. The five school committees of the district voted unanimously to offer Perrone the superintendent’s office. If salary negotiations reach agreement and background checks are clean, Perrone may take up the reins at Hampshire Regional School District at the beginning of July.

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