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Falmouth nears decision on new school chief

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Falmouth nears decision on new school chief

FALMOUTH — The School Board could reach a decision next week on whether to hire it's only finalist for superintendent.

School Board Chairman Andrew Kinley said Tuesday that no date has been set to discuss Geoff Bruno's candidacy.

"Right now we're moving as quick as we can to take in feedback from all the folks who've had a chance to see him," Kinley said. "I would expect that we would act within the next week, one way or another."

Bruno is executive director of curriculum at Saugus Public Schools in Saugus, Mass. Previously, he served as principal at a middle school in Saugus. He has also served as assistant principal at two other middle schools  in Massachusetts, and the head of an urban charter school. His career in education began as a middle school science teacher.

The candidate search began last September after Superintendent Barbara Powers notified the School Board of her plan to retire, effective June 30. The board received more than 20 applications from candidates throughout the country.

"It was a fairly strong pool (of candidates)," Kinley said. "It consisted of sitting superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum directors from all over the state of Maine and places all across the country."

Three candidates were interviewed, he said, but only Bruno is considered a finalist.

Bruno, who is married and has four school-aged children, spent a day in Falmouth on Jan. 29, touring its three school buildings and Town Hall, and meeting with teachers and local leaders.

"I'm so impressed with the people I've met, the students I've seen, the classrooms I've visited," Bruno said during a public question-and-answer session at Falmouth Elementary School. "It's evident that there's a lot of pride in these schools."

During the session, Bruno was asked whether he is qualified for the position, having never held a superintendent position before.

"Every superintendent has to have a first superintendency," Bruno replied.

He continued that he works closely with the superintendent in Saugus and he is "effectively serving as assistant superintendent" in his role as curriculum director.

"It has given me on-the-job training to take the first superintendency in my career," he said.

Kinley on Tuesday said a good superintendent doesn't necessarily have to have previous experience in the position.

"The mark of a good superintendent is a certain skill set," he said. "We want someone who is a communicator. We want someone who is a listener and a collaborator; someone who understands the complexities of a school district, but isn't looking to come in and put their stamp on the district."

Kinley said the same qualities apply to Powers.

In the days leading up to the decision, Kiley said the School Board is seeking feedback about Bruno. He said the board has already received a lot, most of it positive.

"When people are evaluating him as an individual," Kinley said, "he gets very high marks. He seems likable. He communicates. He seems approachable."

On Friday, Jan. 31, a contingent from Falmouth traveled to Saugus. That group included three board members, three members of the district's leadership team, and two teachers, Kinley said. While there, the group met with a School Board member, a staff member and students.

"I did not find a whole lot of difference between the way they talk about education and the way we talk about education," he said.

Kinley said the Saugus district is larger than Falmouth, with about 3,000 students, compared with 2,200. The town is 12 miles north of Boston and has a population of 26,000.

Kinley said he believes Bruno has the skills to be a successful superintendent.

"I've been impressed by what I've seen so far," he said.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.