By Ed Hannan
SHIRLEY -- After a half hour of intense debate over the merits of four Ayer Shirley Regional School District superintendent finalists, the School Committee voted 4-2 Tuesday night to offer the position to Mary Malone, assistant superintendent for Haverhill Public Schools.
Malone initially earned the support of committee members Michele Granger, Daniel Gleason and Chairman Patrick Kelly. Committee members Joyce Reischutz and Susan Therriault voted no, leaving committee member James Quinty as the deciding vote. Quinty paused for a few seconds before casting the fourth vote in favor of Malone.
As a courtesy, the committee then voted unanimously to support Malone as the choice of a majority of the committee.
After a short recess to call Malone and offer her the position, Kelly said she accepted the offer.
"I'm pleased to announce Dr. Malone described herself as sitting by her phone, and was thrilled, pleased and elated," Kelly said. "She accepted the position. We have our superintendent."
The committee will begin negotiations with Malone, who will take over when current Superintendent of Schools Carl Mock's contract expires June 30.
Christopher Casavant, district business administrator for Gardner Public Schools, appeared to be the committee's second favorite choice.
"I was impressed with Dr. Malone," Kelly said. "Dr. Casavant was very impressive. He needed a little more seasoning. Between him and Dr. Malone, I think she is better positioned to do this now. I am not a risk-taker when it comes to this particular role, and I don't think we can afford someone who will get their seasoning here.
"Dr. Malone will show up, she will be prepared every single day, she will do everything she can to move this district forward, work great with the leadership team, and I think she is the appropriate choice at this time," he added.
The other finalists from the pool of 24 applications were George King, assistant superintendent and Hale Middle School principal for Nashoba Regional School District; and Ned Pratt, director of Pupil Personnel Services for Leominster Public Schools. The committee interviewed each finalist last week, leaving different impressions on the members.
Each candidate earned the support of at least some committee members.
Quinty liked all three finalists other than King. Therriault liked Malone and King. Gleason said Malone was the best candidate. Reischutz thought Casavant was the top choice. Granger thought Malone had the best interview and did the best job of interacting with residents after her interview last week. Kelly preferred Malone to Casavant.