Last fall, when longtime Burrell School principal Michele McCarthy announced her intention to retire at the end of December, school administrators braced for the challenge of identifying a suitable successor.
Turns out they only knew the half of it.
Diana Myers-Pachla, principal at Foxboro High School, followed in McCarthy’s footsteps this week by likewise announcing her intention to retire, but at the end of the 2021-22 school year.
According to Superintendent Amy Berdos, interview teams will be convened to conduct both searches simultaneously, with final candidates for both the Burrell and high school jobs expected to be introduced in late March.
“That is the goal,” she told school committee members on Tuesday. “So, a lot’s going to happen between now and then.”
Berdos promised a “thoughtful and thorough” search process involving teachers, parents, school committee members and even high school students.
“We think student voices are really important at that level and having them engage in that process,” she said.
Upon learning that freshman school board member Sarah LiDonni expressed an interest in serving on one of the two search committees, Chairman Rob Canfield suggested that colleague Michelle Raymond be given consideration for the second opening.
Neither LiDonni or Raymond were in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting.
“I know from my previous experience it was incredibly informative, just to get to know a little bit about how the different cultures in the school operate,” Canfield said.
Assistant Superintendent Alison Mello, who will oversee the tandem searches, agreed.
“It’s a wonderful process,” Mello added. “It’s very energizing. It’s a lot of work but I do enjoy it.”
Berdos said the Burrell School search will begin Jan. 26 and the high school search on Feb. 3., with the 12-14 member teams meeting twice to conduct a preliminary screening of applicants. At the same, Berdos and Mello will be conducting focus groups with staff and parents from both schools.
Information on how interested parties may participate will be posted shortly, she said.
Myers-Pachla had been a history teacher, program specialist and later an assistant principal at FHS from 1984-2000, before leaving for Duxbury High, where she taught history and was assistant principal.
She then served as principal at Middleboro High School for two years before returning to replace former Foxboro High principal Jeffrey Theodoss in 2012.
Not coincidentally, Berdos helmed that search and interview process while serving as assistant superintendent under former school chief Amy Spinelli.
“Both of those wonderful leaders have had so many years in public education and really have made their mark,” she said of McCarthy and Myers-Pachla. “We wish them the best, but at the same time it’s hard to say, ‘Happy Retirement’.”
Berdos followed up Tuesday’s surprise announcement by introducing Edward Quigley, who will serve as interim principal at Burrell School for the remainder of the school year in June.
Berdos said Quigley is “no stranger” to temporary leadership positions, having filled a succession of interim positions since retiring as superintendent of Norwood schools in 2008, most recently at an elementary school in Franklin, while also working as an educational consultant.
“He understands what it’s like to be an interim and really bring a sense of calm to our families, staff and students at the Burrell,” she said.
Quigley, who started his temporary post at the Burrell School when students returned from Christmas break, said he makes a habit of strolling through the school lunchroom to interact with young students without their masks.
“In the six days I’ve been doing this, the Number 1 question that all the children ask me is: ‘How old are you’?” he chuckled. “And my response is always: ‘I’m old enough.’ It doesn’t satisfy them, but it kind of ends the conversation.”
Quigley, a longtime church choir director who performed as a tenor with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, said he looks forward to working with a talented staff and caring, committed families and preparing a smooth transition for McCarthy’s successor.
“I believe that working together, we can continue to make this a wonderful year and continue the progress that Michele and the staff have been doing,” he said.