SHIRLEY -- Massachusetts Association of School Committee Search Consultant Mike Gilbert announced the names of the four Ayer Shirley Regional School District superintendent candidate finalists during a brief school committee meeting Tuesday night.

The MASC had screened 24 applications from candidates as far away as Kansas and Hawaii, Gilbert said, but the four finalists selected by the school district's search committee are all from Massachusetts.

The Superintendent Search Advisory Committee, made up of administrators, teachers, parents, and community members from both towns, plus one high school student, completed the interviews of eight candidates for a new superintendent of schools on Thursday, March 6. After a brief discussion, said, Gilbert, the committee voted to send the four finalists to the school committee for their consideration. All four finalists have superintendent certification.

The finalists are Dr. Christopher Casavant, district business administrator for the Gardner Public Schools; George King, assistant superintendent and Hale Middle School principal for the Nashoba Regional School District; Mary Malone, assistant superintendent for the Haverhill Public Schools; and, Ned Pratt, director of pupil personnel services for the Leominster Public Schools.

Gilbert said that all of the candidates had been contacted and are enthusiastic about continuing in the process.

Superintendent Search Advisory Committee Chair Shannon Bischoff, a guidance counselor at Lura A. White Elementary School, said that the candidate finalists understood that the district was, three years in, still in its formative years, and that each had expressed excitement about its possibilities.

Shirley parent Mitch Kahn, who also served on the committee, said that he was impressed with the level of interest and understanding the candidates had with regard to the importance of marketing the district and keeping its visibility high.

Gilbert said that the screening committee was officially relieved of its duties, and that he would immediately begin developing a site visit schedule for school committee members' visits to the candidates' school districts. Those visits will take place the week of March 17.

Finalists' site visits to the district and final interviews will begin the week of March 25. A candidate will be selected by March 31.

Gilbert thanked the screening committee. They represented Ayer Shirley very passionately and professionally," he said.

-- Dina Samfield