Audience Interviews Three Finalists for Wood End Principalship
One finalist is Wood End teacher Joanne King.
Three finalists for the principalship of the Wood End Elementary School in Reading, including a Wood End teacher, took center stage individually last night at the school in front of an audience of about 40 people.
The candidates, in the order in which they answered questions from the audience:
Ben Bollard Schersten, a third grade teacher in Arlington, at the Dalin Elementary School;
Shamus Brady, assistant principal in the Chelsea public schools; and
Joanne King, a fifth grade teacher at the Wood End School.
The principalship will open when Richard Davidson, who has led the school since it opened seven years ago, retires at the end of the school year.
Members of the audience asked, among other questions, why Brady wanted the post in Reading and why Schersten and King wanted to become a principal.
Brady said he wants to emulate some of the successful leaders he’s seen. After working in different teaching positions, he said he wants to apply what he’s learned and stay at a school for at least 10 years.
“I’m looking for a school family,” he said.
Schersten, who said he comes from a family of educators, has taught preschool, kindergarten and grades three and five, and done curriculum development for the Museum of Science. The biggest challenge of moving from teacher to principal, he said, would be understanding the community, as the “new guy.” The winnowing process for a new principal is like a dating show, he quipped, where only one of the candidates will get the rose.
King said she knew she wanted to become a principal when she went into teaching after working as a corporate trainer for 20 years for CVS. She wanted to spend about 10 years in a classroom first, she said, to see what good teaching looks like. She has taught at Wood End since the school opened and in Reading for three years before that, she said, at the Birch Meadow and Eaton Elementary Schools.
One audience member asked why King should be the school’s new principal instead of a person who would bring “fresh eyes” to the school. While King was working toward her administrator’s certification, she said she spent time in schools in other communities.
“If you can find someone more committed," she said, "hire them.”
Procedurally, Superintendent John Doherty said he hopes to announce his choice of the new Wood End principal next week, before Memorial Day. He said he would decide after last night’s interviews whether he would need to visit the candidates’ schools.
Thirty-four people applied for the job, Doherty said. A committee of parents, teachers and administrators screened the applications down to 11, he said.
The three finalists spent Monday in Wood End classrooms, met with between 20 and 25 fourth graders who “grilled” the candidates and talked with Doherty about what they observed in the classrooms and what recommendations they would offer to the teachers they observed. They met with administrators yesterday, Doherty said, to see how they related to the team.
The audience included Stephanie Malone, a fifth grade teacher at the Wood End School, and dad Xun Zhang, whose son is a Wood End kindergartener.
“I really like this school,” Zhang said before the interviews began. Some families really get involved in the school, he said. After all three candidates answered questions from the audience, Zhang had a clear preference for one candidate: Joanne King. He had never met her before at the school, he said, since his son is only in kindergarten. She is “lively" and "very passionate,” he elaborated, and appreciates the connection between the school and students’ families.