YARMOUTH — The Leicester, Mass., School Committee voted Saturday to hire Yarmouth Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci as their next superintendent, although another Massachusetts school department is also vying for her services.
In addition to Leicester, Paolucci is also a candidate for the superintendent job in the Harvard, Mass., where the School Committee on Monday announced Paolucci is one of three finalists.
A third school department made her as a finalist, too, but Paolucci said she “decided not to pursue it further.”
Paolucci was chosen by the Leicester committee from an initial search pool of 30 applicants, which was narrowed to two finalists early last week. Committee members visited the Yarmouth School Department Friday and met with Paolucci’s co-workers for a final evaluation.
They had originally planned to make the decision Wednesday, Dec. 12, but instead, voted to offer Paolucci the job Saturday and begin the process toward contract negotiations.
Although the decision is not final until a formal contract is negotiated and while she weighs the Harvard situation, Paolucci said she welcomes the prospect of joining the Leicester School Department.
“It’s nice to know they were pleased with my background and experience,” she said. “Leicester has both its challenges and assets and I believe I can serve them well. That’s appealing to me to take on a challenge. … I learned a lot in Yarmouth. I learned a lot of good ways to do things that can be applied elsewhere.”
Leicester School Committee Chair Scott Broskey said they hope to have Paolucci start by the end of January, but acknowledged there are still several steps remaining in the process.
In Harvard, School Committee Chairwoman Susan Mary Redinger said their decision will not be made until mid-January, noting that they still need to review references and conduct on-site visits. They would have a new superintendent start July 1, 2013, she said.
“There will be no rushing of the process, we have to do our due diligence,” she said, referring to the Leicester committee’s decision. “We are certainly hopeful (Paolucci) will continue to be a finalist in Harvard, but we understand that she needs to do what’s best for herself.”
The current school chief at Harvard, Joe Connelley, has been the interim superintendent for two years, according to Redinger, who said they started a search committee about two months ago.
Redinger said Harvard is a high-achieving school district like Yarmouth, and she hopes Paolucci would bring her expertise in maintaining that and finding areas to improve.
“She has sound budget experience,” Redinger said. “And she brings wealth of background we would love to have.”
Paolucci said she plans site visits to both Leicester and Harvard.
“It’s nice to be in this mix,” she said. “Both are wonderful and very different districts from one another. I do think in both situations what I’ve learned in Yarmouth will be a good thing. I have had a great experience in a lot of ways.”
Paolucci said she needs to talk with all three school committees before her departure date can be scheduled.
“I want to make sure that certain things are done before I leave and that certain things are in place,” she said. “It’s not really about the date. It’s more about tasks.”
At Leicester, she would replace a 27-year veteran, Paul Soojian, who is retiring after five years as superintendent.
Both districts are sized similarly to Yarmouth.
Abby Diggins, chairwoman of the Yarmouth School Committee, said as soon as Paolucci makes a decision a search committee will be formed, a search firm hired and advertising will begin to find a replacement. She said the School Committee would likely appoint an interim superintendent during the search for a permanent replacement.
Paolucci has been superintendent in Yarmouth since 2009 and said she wanted to be closer to her family who live in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Previously, she was a teacher and administrator in Rhode Island.
The Yarmouth committee will hold its regular meeting Thursday, Dec. 13, but Diggins said Tuesday that no discussion of Paolucci’s job prospects are planned.