SHIRLEY -- The spotlight was set on superintendent finalist George King Thursday night, as he sat in an interview before the Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee.
King, assistant superintendent for the Nashoba Valley Regional School District and principal of Hale Middle School in Stow, was the third finalist interviewed this week for the Ayer Shirley superintendent position.
The first question posed to King was why he wanted to be superintendent. The district, recently regionalized, is facing budget issues as Shirley cannot afford to pay its part.
King, who served as Framingham's town manager for about seven years, said he has a good understanding of the budget-operational issues the district faces as it is regionalized.
The Nashoba School District where he works now is also regionalized and includes three towns. He explained that even that district took time to adjust to a shared school system.
"When I first got there, I could definitely still see that transformation," he said. "And that was 11 years into it."
King also saw Ayer and Shirley's regionalized middle school as a strength.
"Having a regionalized middle school, I think starts that process a little bit earlier in the system with more of your employees," he said. "I think there also has to be a recognition that it might just take a little more time, as much as we'd all like to see it happen."
King said he was impressed with the three-year-old district having a new high school on the ground.
That, he said, could be a "very good selling point" in reversing the problem of school-choice numbers.
Part of attracting more people, he said, is showing people that the district is doing well and make that true.
"Giving people -- the taxpayers -- the idea that we're spending their money well is critical in getting that type of support," he said. "I truly believe once we get the high school built here, that we can switch those numbers around and get more choice in than out."
King put forth his experience in finances, particularly when he was in Framingham managing a $200 million budget.
"The numbers are big, but the concepts aren't," he said. "I know where every dollar goes, and I think that's important."
"If you sit here and quiz me about the Nashoba budget, I can answer almost every question to you," he added.
Echoing some of the comments from the other finalist Christopher Casavant last night, King said children in special education should be kept in their home district and not bused 45 minutes out of the area.
This would be a benefit to their peers, he said, who would be exposed to children with different challenges.
Member James Quinty asked King how he managed to jump from the job of town manager to a postion in the Nashoba district.
King said Framingham was a very difficult political town, but it was a great opportunity to manage the town that he grew up in.
"But it definitely comes with a lot of personal impact," he said. "It's a difficult political town, so especially when you're a homegrown person it became a tough job."
King ended the interview stating that he was overall very impressed with the district.
"I enjoyed it," he said of his day in the school district. "There's definitely some challenges out there, and those are daunting, but there's a lot of ability out there."
He acknowledged the budget issues, but insisted that there are still some entreprenuerial opportunities in the state.
"They seem like a lot of good people, teachers here," he said. "I think I could build on that."