By Ethan Forman
---- — DANVERS — The School Committee for the brand-new $133 million Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical High School is moving to hire the school’s first superintendent-director by July 1, if not sooner.
A personnel policy subcommittee this week named North Shore Technical High Superintendent-Director Daniel O’Connell and Minuteman Regional School Superintendent-Director Edward Bouquillon, Ph.D., as finalists. Both men are in the running to lead the merger of two regional vocational schools and Peabody’s high school vocational programs, according to two members of the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School Committee.
Whoever is picked will have the herculean task of merging the 16-community North Shore Technical High in Middleton with the programs of the state-owned Essex Aggie in Danvers, which draws from more than 50 communities, with Peabody’s vocational high school programs.
The schools — and now the merged school — include students from Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester and Essex, all of whom tuition their students to the regional district. A sprawling 1,440-student school is presently under construction along Route 62 adjacent to the Essex Aggie campus.
Many on the North Shore know O’Connell for his work as principal of the 475-student North Shore Tech from 2007 to 2010, then superintendent-director since 2010. He has helped shepherd the merger with Essex Aggie Superintendent Roger Bourgeois, who is resigning April 1 to take a job with the Boston Public Schools.
Bouquillon’s name is not unknown on the North Shore. He was the director of the Windham Regional Career Center in Brattleboro, Vt., when he was the top pick of the Essex Aggie board in 2007. Bouquillon chose the Minuteman job instead.
Dean Porteous, who chairs the Personnel Policy Subcommittee, said that four finalists were identified before the list was cut to two. The job was advertised with the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees on Jan. 16, with a deadline to submit applications by Feb. 1.
A committee that included representatives from the Personnel Policy Subcommittee, plus Peabody and the state Department of Agriculture (representing the programs of Essex Aggie), screened the candidates.
“The search went well,” Porteous said. “It’s difficult to get a number you would think you want.”
That’s because the job requires both a license as a superintendent and as a superintendent/director of a regional vocational technical school.
“It’s a smaller pool to choose from, and you have to get people who want to take on a project of this size,” Porteous said.
It’s expected that both finalists will be interviewed in a public meeting next Thursday, said Essex North Shore Chairman George Harvey, who expects the committee to vote on the appointment that night.
Porteous and Harvey said they would have liked to have a superintendent in place last fall, given there needs to be a budget in place well in advance of the school opening in September 2014. Teachers have to be hired, department heads have to be chosen, programs have to be created, various admissions policies among the three entities have to be worked out and unions have to be merged, Porteous said.
“You have to put a budget in place a year in advance,” said Porteous, who added that cities and towns wanted one person as the point person.
While July 1 is the deadline to get a superintendent-director in place, the sentiment among the board members is to get one on board as soon as possible.
“I’m looking for the person who can hit the ground running,” Harvey said. “It’s a unique project, and in some sense, it’s a little bit overwhelming to bring this all together.”
Bouquillon, in his cover letter, said it is rare for a present superintendent-director “to explore other options,” but he found the opportunity to lead a new district and school “compelling.” He presently leads a regional school district in Lexington serving 16 towns and 775 students.
“I have a 20-year record of successful leadership in regional career and technical education,” Bouquillon wrote. “My experience in agriculture, public and private secondary schools, higher education, organization development, independent consulting, evaluation, and researching has prepared me.”
O’Connell, in his cover letter, said for the past three years that he has been involved in the design and construction of Essex Technical High and looked forward to presenting his vision of the merger.
“I believe that my enclosed credentials, along with my passion, work ethic and vision, will be a significant asset as you move forward in this exciting venture,” wrote O’Connell, who was associate principal at Burlington High before coming to North Shore Tech.
Harvey said whoever is chosen will have a great impact on the school moving forward.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.