Chelmsford Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kristan Rodriguez is a finalist to become Groton-Dunstable superintendent.SUN FILE PHOTOSun staff photos can
Chelmsford Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kristan Rodriguez is a finalist to become Groton-Dunstable superintendent. SUN FILE PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

GROTON -- After meetings this week to interview two finalists for superintendent, the Groton-Dunstable School Committee Friday night postponed making a choice after members said they needed more information.

"I think we have two very dynamic candidates. Both would bring different strengths to the district," Chairwoman Allison Manugian said at a special meeting.

"We're extremely lucky to have two such qualified candidates," agreed committee member James Frey.

The careful statements reflected the committee's attempt to remain neutral on the candidates, Sutton Superintendent of Schools Theodore Friend and Chelmsford Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kristan Rodriguez.

The finalists presented committee members with a stark choice between experience and energy.

Sutton Superintendent of Schools Theodore Friend is a finalist to become Groton-Dunstable superintendent.SUN FILE PHOTOSun staff photos can be ordered by
Sutton Superintendent of Schools Theodore Friend is a finalist to become Groton-Dunstable superintendent. SUN FILE PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

Before taking on the reins of the Sutton Public Schools in 2010, Friend served as associate superintendent of the Tantasqua Regional School District from 2008 to 2010, as a high-school principal in 2009, and a teacher before that.

As a superintendent, Friend had much experience dealing with budgets and long-range planning, contract negotiations, professional development and strategic planning.

Rodriguez has served as assistant superintendent in Chelmsford since 2011 and as director of curriculum in the Georgetown schools from 2008 to 2011. Before that, she was a principal in the Tewksbury school system for four years, assistant principal in Gloucester from 2002 to 2004, and taught middle-school English in Georgetown for three years.


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Committee members began Friday's meeting by reviewing comments on the candidates from school staff and town officials who, while acknowledging Friend's experience, seemed "more comfortable" with Rodriguez.

Member Jon Sjoberg said he felt Rodriguez would fit better as part of the district's team.

Fellow committee member Leslie Lathrop also preferred Rodriguez, citing the district's current fiscal woes and suggesting that Friend is not the person to carry the schools forward when those issues are finally settled.

Discussion petered out at that point when it was suggested that deeper background checks might be needed, including questioning of each candidate's leadership team members back in their home districts, town officials, superintendents they worked for, faculty members, and anyone who had not been listed as a reference on resumes.

Any new information will be reported at the committee's next regular meeting and if information is still insufficient, site visits to the candidates' schools would be the next step.

Whoever is chosen would replace interim superintendent Anthony Bent in July. Bent has been filling in on the job since 2012 when former superintendent Joseph Mastrocola resigned.

Also Friday, there was more talk, albeit guarded, of a possible override as a last-ditch effort to solve a recently discovered shortfall in the district's budget.

The approved school operating budget for fiscal 2013 was $35,200,000, but a review last year revealed that total obligations by the district came to $36,204,212.

With the obligation spread over several years, the district has managed to fill a gap of $684,626 in the fiscal 2013 budget with a series of cuts and found revenue.

The same approach yielded savings in the fiscal 14 budget as well that has left an amount of $464,488 yet to be accounted for and that school officials continue to wrestle with.

Fiscal 2015 is expected to yield its own shortfall as the effects causing the fiscal anomaly continue to roll forward.

As areas to cut and sources of revenue dry up, reductions in personnel could follow unless something is done -- which is where talk of an override came in.

Acknowledging that taxpayers have been squeezed tight in the past few years, committee members were cautious about seeking an override.

In addition, they would have to contend with officials from Groton and Dunstable who have already warned against seeking an override for purposes of balancing the budget.

The subject is likely to come up at a special meeting between the School Committee and town officials scheduled for Wednesday.