On Wednesday, March 27th, the search for a new Superintendent in Nantucket Public Schools (NPS) came to a close. After being faced with several obstacles the School Committee decided Dr. Elizabeth Hallett, one of the remaining three finalists, will be the next Superintendent of NPS after serving as Deputy Superintendent under Michael Cozort for one year. From her extensive background in education to her strength in English Learner Education, it appears Dr. Hallett will be a great fit for the needs of NPS. Dr. Hallett began working for the Quincy Public Schools 16 years ago as an Earth Science and Biology SEI teacher. Beginning in 2012, Dr. Hallett held many positions including School Department Chair and K-12 ESL Administrator and has served as the Director of Secondary Education, English Learner Education, and Academic Programs. She has also previously taught Sheltered English Instruction and English as a Second Language at the Quincy Schools. She has a Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from Simmons University, and a Doctorate from the University of New England in Educational Leadership.
Prior to the selection of Dr.Hallett, the search appeared to be heading in a completely different direction. This past February, four Superintendent candidates, or “finalists”, were chosen by School Committee Chairman Dr. Timothy Lepore and the School Committee, with help from the Search Committee. Dr. David W. Buck, Dr. Elizabeth Hallett, Dr. Susan E. Kustka, and Glenn G. Robbins Jr. visited Nantucket for public interviews and meet and greets after being selected. The right candidate was difficult to find. For several on the search committee, Superintendent of Wright City R-II District Dr. David W. Buck was the right fit. When he withdrew from the search, the decision became even more challenging.
Dr. Buck was just shy of retirement in his own district when he applied for the superintendent position at NPS. In fact, this was the only application he sent out. He had visited Nantucket roughly 15 years ago and was intrigued enough to consider returning for work. After visiting for his public interview, Dr. Buck shared, “What an amazing place! The staff and students were welcoming. The quality of work was very high. The sky’s the limit going forward. Whaler Nation was very impressive.” He did, however, come to realize the main disadvantage of island living was the cost of housing compared to the salary. Dr. Buck claims this was the only factor that made him drop out. In Missouri, where he currently resides, his family of five lives on a property with five bedrooms, three barns, and three acres of land for only $1,100 a month. The kind of downsizing he would have to consider if he were to move to Nantucket didn’t make much sense. Dr. Buck claimed, “The cost of housing was just too big a jump without a supplemental salary from retirement, which I am just short of in Missouri.” Dr. Buck intends to remain in his position as superintendent of the Wright City R-11 District in Missouri where he has been for the past 11 years.
Dr. Lepore claimed there was a lot of support for Dr. Buck within the School Committee. With Dr. Buck, the first pick of several on the school committee, no longer in consideration, the Committee was left with three candidates. Though there was initially lesser support for them, according to Dr. Lepore, “there were elements of each of these three candidates that were very appealing.” Some of the requirements for the job include a master’s degree, licensing as a Superintendent in Massachusetts, ten plus years of experience in education (Classroom teacher and Building Principal), and “a strong managerial background.” The list goes on, proving that these are hard shoes to fill. Not only did these candidates have to meet the requirements on paper, but they had to mesh well with the community. According to Mr. Cozort, who truly understands the demands of being a district leader, one of his main focuses as superintendent is the students. He claims, “To be successful as a Superintendent on Nantucket you have to be ‘all in.’ Embrace our students, our staff and our entire community and they will embrace you.” In order to fully embrace everyone in the school systems, inclusion must be present. Within NPS, there is an emphasis on support for the minority community, a focus on professional development, special education, and many more important demands. Dr. Lepore explained, “We’ve got to find somebody that’s an all arounder. Everybody has certain skills that the others don’t necessarily have.”
Once the School Committee evaluated the remaining candidates’ pro’s and con’s, they decided to ask Mr. Cozort’s opinion on the matter. Cozort chose to talk with the remaining candidates and have a collaborative conversation on what should happen next. It was evident a compromise would have to be made. The idea of Deputy Superintendent came to the table. Though returning for another year was not Mr. Cozort’s initial plan, the benefits a Deputy Superintendent position presents brought him to support it. The position will essentially be a way for Dr. Hallett to become familiarized with the school system and working side-by-side with Mr. Cozort. The following school year, Dr. Hallett will fully take over the position. According to Dr. Lepore, this gives her a chance to “buff up the areas where [she] hasn’t had the opportunity to work.” The fresh view that many see Dr. Hallett bringing to NPS would be beneficial to the whole district. While Mr. Cozort is introducing her to our school climate, Dr. Hallett is likely to share her own practices that we have not been introduced to. Dr. Cozort shared, “I look forward to sharing my knowledge with her so that she can be fully prepared…I also expect that we as a school district will learn from her about teaching and learning from a new perspective.”
Dr. Hallett will be signed to a three-year contract. By July of 2019, she will take on the position of Deputy Superintendent. By the following July of 2020, Mr. Cozort will retire and Dr. Hallett will officially be the new Superintendent of the Nantucket Public Schools district.
By Maisie Cocker