June 22, 2018
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Mass. school committee says MDI superintendent a strong candidate for top job


This letter to the editor was originally published in the Gloucester Times:

To the editor:

The School and Superintendent Search Committee have tried hard to keep the public well-informed about the search for a new superintendent for the Rockport (Mass.) Public Schools.

It was therefore frustrating to read an article about public interviews that we believed did not portray candidates as accurately as we would like. This letter seeks to address two important concerns raised by Wednesday’s story: that Robert Liebow has little experience dealing with budget constraints such as we face in Rockport, and that Jon Bernard mentioned that Rockport was his only application as a “dig” against the other candidate.

Robert Liebow, superintendent of Mount Desert Island Regional Schools for eight years now, described extensive, successful experience in getting budgets passed, not for one school system, but for the 10 in his regional system, which means selling the budget each year to that many town boards and residents at town meeting and the polls.

He is certainly not “able to simply ask the towns … for the budget he needs.” The fact that his budgets have never failed would indicate prudence in what he asks of the towns as well as skill in collaboration and communication.

Jon Bernard, principal of North Reading High School, is clearly a person with upbeat, enthusiastic energy. His comment that he was only applying to one position at this time was meant as a positive statement about his own motivation and hopes to come to Rockport. We cannot imagine him disparaging another candidate to make points for himself.

Mr. Bernard has dealt with budget issues as a principal and as a selectman, both positions that require those same skills of collaboration and communication — and now wants to do the same at the superintendent level.

We are not sure how “budget handling separates” these candidates, as the story’s headline indicated. Rockport schools — and their budgets — will be in good hands with either of these finalists at the helm.

In fact, best wishes to the School Committee, which is now immersed in site visits and other aspects of this final stage of the search. Its members have a tough decision ahead.

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