By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard said school officials are currently evaluating two candidates for Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Director.
The school department is searching for a permanent PPS Director to lead the special education department. The PPS director is in charge of all special education, health/nursing, guidance, homeless and 504 plan services for all North Reading students in pre-kindergarten to grade 12.
The last two PPS director searches were unsuccessful. Dr. Valerie Ardi Flynn has served as the school department’s interim PPS director since July 2013.
After striking out twice in the search for a permanent PPS director, a search committee led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Daly began undertaking a third search earlier this winter. The administrative council interviewed the two finalists recently.
Kristin Burke is the current elementary special education coordinator for North Reading Public Schools. Before Burke was appointed to her current position, she worked as the school department’s evaluation team leader for the district’s three elementary schools.
Prior to coming to North Reading, Burke worked as an evaluation team supervisor for Lexington Public Schools. She also worked at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Additionally, Burke worked as a special education for the Duxbury, Norwood and Winchester public schools. Burke attended Villanova University and earned a master of science in education degree from Simmons College. She also earned a certificate of advanced graduate studies from UMass Boston.
The second PPS Director finalist is Cynthia Conant, who has been Fitchburg Public Schools’ assistant special education director for the past three years. Conant previously worked as a program coordinator in a 45 day diagnostic program for the FLLC Collaborative. She also worked as a guidance counselor for Ashland Public Schools.
Additionally, Conant has prior experience working as a case coordinator for the Family Stabilization Program. She worked as a residential program clinician and as a social worker at the Dr. Franklin Perkins School. She also worked for the Department of Social Services. Conant attended Saint Michael’s College and earned a master of education from Cambridge College.
Bernard said school officials will begin undertaking reference checks of the two candidates soon and will also conduct site visits. He anticipates making a PPS Director recommendation at the School Committee’s April 27 meeting. State law requires school committees to appoint special education directors.
School Committee Chairman Jerry Venezia said he would like the school board to interview both Burke and Conant, which would be similar to when the committee interviewed Michael Connelly and two other finalists for the school finance director job two years ago.
“I don’t feel like acquiescing our appointment since it’s our appointment,” said Venezia.
School Committee member Mel Webster previously served on the unsuccessful PPS Director search committee last year. He said the search committee thoroughly vetted the candidates and school officials ultimately decided to scrap the search because they didn’t find a candidate who was right for North Reading.
“It was determined there wasn’t anybody who had the skill set that we needed,” said Webster. “I am 100 percent comfortable with accepting a recommendation.”
Venezia said the difference between this year and last year is two candidates are being recommended to the School Committee.
School Committee member Janene Imbriano said she would like to interview both candidates.
Bernard and the school board agreed to continue discussing the matter at a future meeting.