Community members gathered at Pembroke Academy on Wednesday evening to interview the final candidates in the running to replace outgoing SAU 53 Co-Superintendent Gail Paludi.
Christopher Pratt, 47, and David Ryan, 48, are both vying to take over Paludi’s responsibilities overseeing the four schools in Allenstown, Chichester, and Epsom when she retires at the end of the year for a part-time position in Goshen. Deerfield, Pembroke and central SAU office functions are all overseen by Co-Superintendent Patty Sherman.
Pratt, who is currently a public school superintendent in Wilmington, Vt., took questions from a mix of parents, district employees, and school board members while sitting at a student’s desk in a classroom.
“Have you had any history, experience, in terms of working with state government?” asked Democratic state Rep. David Doherty, who also sits on the Pembroke school board.
Pratt answered that he had – in fact, he’d gone up to Montpelier, Vt., just the night before to testify about legislation. And it was new state mandates that were driving him to seek work outside of the state.
“I don’t believe in what the state of Vermont is doing to education,” Pratt said.
Pratt’s current district, the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union, has had trouble finding a path under a new district consolidation law in Vermont. The law was intended to help districts find efficiencies and achieve equity by coming together, but it’s been criticized for being too inflexible.
Ryan, who has been the assistant superintendent for curriculum in the Manchester School District for the past four years, took questions in the school library.
Epsom school board member Lucie Weeks asked him if he was a “stayer” or a “jumper.”
Ryan, who lives in Hooksett, said that he did plan to “be here for quite a long time.” But he added that at his age, he would be “hard-pressed to say I’m going to retire from SAU 53.”
Ryan said he’d tendered his resignation in Manchester earlier this year over frictions with district leadership.
“I think that people are more than a number and more than a dollar value,” Ryan said. “And that was something that was being espoused within the first 30 days.”
Ryan said he’d already turned down a few offers because he was looking for the right fit, but that he thought he’d found it in the SAU’s small-town, close-knit feel.
Pratt has been an administrator and teacher in Vermont and Massachusetts and has a bachelor’s degree from Framingham State University and a master’s degree from Simmons College. Ryan has been an administrator and teacher in Manchester and Nashua. He has a bachelor’s degree from Plymouth State University and master’s degree from Boston College.
About a dozen people applied for the position, according to Sherman.
The new co-superintendent’s pay will be negotiated once the districts make their pick, Sherman said. Both she and Paludi, who has been in the district three years, currently make about $119,00 a year.
SAU 53 board members are scheduled to decide on their final pick Thursday at Pembroke Academy.
(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)