GROTON -- Taken by surprise with the news that school superintendent Joseph Mastrocola had applied and become a finalist for a similar position with the Peabody school system, members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee have expressed determination to be ready when the time comes to begin searching for a new administrator.
"We can't really take any action at this point, but we can prepare," said School Committee chairman James Frey at a meeting of the Personnel and Negotiation Sub-Committee held last Tuesday night.
In making his remarks, Frey nevertheless expressed his belief that if Mastrocola was indeed a finalist in Peabody's search process, his already being a known quantity there and his good record at Groton-Dunstable, would likely see him chosen as the city's new superintendent.
"So we should have something happen pretty quickly," concluded Frey.
According to reports, Mastrocola became one of three finalists for the position of superintendent of Peabody schools last week with a decision by the School Committee there expected by the end of the month.
Not a stranger to the Peabody school system, Mastrocola served there as assistant superintendent from 2007 until 2010 when he was hired as superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District.
Mastrocola began his professional career as a special education teacher before moving into administration. He earned a degree in school administration from Salem State
Currently a resident of Ipswich, Mastrocola's interest in the top job at Peabody did not come as a surprise to some as the commute from the North Shore to the Nashoba Valley was a long one.
Mastrocola however, was not among the preferred choices of the School Committee when he was hired as superintendent in 2010. Taking over from Alan Genovese, Mastrocola came from a field of applicants that did not include any top tier administrators. His choice, however, proved a fortuitous one for Groton-Dunstable however, when he moved quickly to straighten out the district's finances and for the first time in many years, turned in a budget that did not require spending increases.
For that reason and others, many in the district will not be happy to see him go but forced to face that possibility, members of the School Committee took some initial steps at a meeting held Jan. 31 to lay the groundwork for a new search process.
Expecting to retain Mastrocola's services through the end of the current school year ending June 30, committee members last Tuesday night considered a number of approaches to the problem including hiring an "interim-plus" superintendent who could serve as long as a year in the post, sharing the services of a superintendent with another school system, begin a "full bore" search process, or even discuss with Mastrocola what the district might offer him to stay.
Sharing services was immediately dismissed and the consensus among committee members was that Mastrocola would not be susceptible to incentives to stay as it was known his heart lay with Peabody.
"I don't think he's one bit interested," said committee member Berta Erickson with finality.
Nevertheless, members agreed that it could no harm to give the idea a try.
But with a feeling of certainty that Mastrocola would indeed be chosen for the Peabody position, discussion devolved around a formal search process which committee members said that like the last time, was likely not to yield top drawer candidates.
That left open the possibility of holding not one round of searching, but two.
If such were to be the case, an interim superintendent would need to be found who would be willing to stay on for a full year and not just a few months.
"I don't think it would be necessarily a lost year if we had to bring in an interim superintendent," said Frey.
The irony, noted committee John Giger, was that because of Mastrocola's work over the last year and a half, the Groton-Dunstable School District has become a more attractive place to work since the last search process took place and for that reason, would likely draw "higher caliber" candidates for the superintendent's job.
In the end, committee members decided that another meeting on the selection process need not be held until there was official confirmation that Mastrocola had been chosen for and accepted the position in Peabody.
In the meantime, however, members were to hold in abeyance the plan to hire an interim superintendent pending the outcome of a new search process and sounding out Mastrocola himself if there was anything the district could offer him to stay on the job.
Also, that advice and information on the search process could be solicited from the New England School Development Council (NESDEC).
Mastrocola's three year contract with Groton-Dunstable expires on June 30, 2013.