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School District Hires a Special Ed. Director ... Maybe

The school committee votes to hire the interim Director. Two school committee members not in attendance say they are disappointed a search was abandoned. A finalist for a job in Arlington, Marisa McCarthy has not decided if she will accept Attlebor

Interim Special Education Director Marisa McCarthy could have a long-term future in the Attleboro school district—if she wants it. The school committee voted 6-0 Wednesday to approve Superintendent Pia Durkin's request go grant McCarthy a three-year contract. However, McCarthy is one of two finalists for the same job in Arlington, and School Committee Chair Mike Tyler said she would not remove her name from consideration there.

The decision to appoint McCarthy was a sudden departure from the previous plan to do a full search and accept applications. A job notice appears online with a Feb. 25 application deadline. Tyler said he re-convened the search committee last week to determine if its members favored giving the job to McCarthy. He said the support from the committee was "overwhelming." Among those on the search committee is School Committee member Bill Larson.

"It was quickly evident through people's comments and the stories that they shared that there was such a high level of professionalism that [McCarthy] brought to the job, and also the passion she has for the job," said Larson at the meeting Wednesday night.

Although support on the search committee for McCarthy may have been "overwhelming" (Tyler declined to give an actual vote tally), it was not unanimous. School Committee member Barbara Craw, who did not attend the meeting Wednesday due to an illness, wrote in an email to Attleboro Patch that she opposed giving the job to McCarthy without doing a more thorough search.

"The process that was told to the public in regards to the special education director was not done," Craw wrote. "Ms. McCarthy could have applied and went through the proper process and then we all could state without any doubt that she was the best candidate for the position. Because a meeting behind closed doors was held and a decision was made only by a few chosen people, who were school committee members, [special education parent advisory council] members, teachers or administrators, it was not a fair and reasonable interview process."

Stressing she had no personal problem with McCarthy, Craw added, "I feel the school committee let down those who could not express their opinions and we should be ashamed for lying to the public and telling them on television and publicly that a fair and thorough interview process would be conducted for this position."

Fellow School Committee member Brenda Furtado, who said she was not in attendance Wednesday due to a family obligation, had a similar opinion, which she shared in an email to Patch.

"We again did not fully advertise this important position," she wrote. "We took the easy way out! We only had six or fewer applicants when we advertised for the interim position. We failed the district, in my opinion. This is not personal to Ms. McCarthy, but her resume did not have the experience that I feel is needed for a district of this size."

Several people who spoke at the meeting Wednesday did not share Furtado's opinion on whether McCarthy is the right person for the job. Thacher Elementary School principal Catherine Zinni and two parents were among those who spoke in favor of McCarthy.

"Marisa has brought a level of expertise that I have been looking for for my son," said Angela Ferreira, who has two children in the district's special education program.

School Committee member David Murphy said he believes a thorough search was done.

"A full search is defined by having a beginning and an end, and it ends when you find the right candidate," he said. "And it's not defined by a specific length of time. I think as evidenced by the support and the unanimous vote [by the school committee], this search ended when the right candidate was found."

Whether the search will need to continue is now up to McCarthy. She did not say at the meeting whether she would accept the Attleboro job. Tyler told Patch she had told him she would continue with the application process in Arlington.

Pablo February 14, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Arlington is a fantastic community, with a supportive superintendent and school committee. It will welcome and appreciate a talented professional.
Henry February 14, 2013 at 06:46 PM
So you couldn't be there but felt it was OK to critique the decision made by rest of the committee, and please, when did the wonder twin sisters every worry about lying to the public....classic quote.....classic
j fernandes February 15, 2013 at 03:24 AM
It seems to that Brenda and Barbara are the only telling the truth as usual. A search hidden from the public eye, only Durkin supporters on the search committee? Sounds like Dirty back door politics (Durkin's specialty). This was one of the reasons the school committee did not renew Durkin's contract. She did not resign. They gave her the boot. Before Durkin leaves, she is trying to stick to us. There are so many special education parents who have horrible experiences with Ms. McCarthy. None of this was brought forward at the meeting last night. People sent emails to every school committee member not supporting McCarthy. Remember children are not getting services at Willett school. Why can't McCarthy get this in order? Thank you Brenda and Barbara for being honest and putting the truth out there. I thought people were sick of the hidden agenda with the last committee. I think we were fooled by Murphy, Larson and Tyler. You did not represent the public, you supported the Superintendent who is gone and doesn't care about our Special Education children. Time to vote you out and put in true representatives of all children. You certainly do not care about the Special Education children. You made that clear last night by just accepting McCarthy. I love how Murphy defined a search. How come this didn't hold true for the Superintendent search Mr. Murphy? How hypocritical.
Eddie Porreca February 15, 2013 at 06:35 PM
J- I am only commenting on one part of your statement : "Remember children are not getting services at Willett school. Why can't McCarthy get this in order?" I have had 3 children go through the Willett School and the last one is currently in 4th grade. 2 of them required services while attending the school and received them and have absolutely flourished. We had to advocate for our children toreceive the needed services and it took effort on our part to make sure it got done, but that is ok, they are our children and no one else's responsibility but ours. So we did what we needed to do and in turn the school, Special Education Department and the District did their part as well. As to the rest of your comment I have no comment, those are obviously your experiences and feelings, I was just sharing mine.
JD February 18, 2013 at 10:30 PM
So Ms Craw does not appreciate decisions made by a chosen few????Hmmmmmmm. We'll come back to that comment in the future. Ms. Craw, we can see right through your contrarian few points and motivation for them. Yes, another "gotcha Craw moment". How much support did you give this process? About as much as you did with the Superintendent Focus group process? Right you had Doctor's appointments scheduled during every single one of them. Here is your approach, you resort to accusing the committee of lying, but let's be clear who you are accusing. At least Ms Furtado cited a specific reason in her dissent. (district size). No, you resort to the verbal equivelant of street fighting and passive aggressive comments. Read your emails and listen to your explanations you provide when you "cry foul". It's no wonder the interest was/is light for the job and Marisa is keeping her options open. The customer in this particular case is the community,especially parents of special education students, they have spoken, thanks for your timely input...

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