Laurie Halt is a finalist for Falmouth Schools superintendent

Laurie Halt, Martha's Vineyard Public Schools assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. — File photo by Janet Hefler

Laurie Halt, Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, was interviewed for the job of Falmouth Public Schools superintendent, at a special public meeting in East Falmouth Monday evening. She was one of four finalists selected by a screening committee.

The school committee met again Tuesday, March 12, and made plans for site visits with each of the four finalists, Falmouth School Committee and screening committee chairman Rebecca Moffitt told The Times in a phone conversation March 13. She said two school committee members would visit with Ms. Halt and anyone else she would like them to meet on Martha’s Vineyard on Monday.

Ms. Moffitt said one of the school committee members would give a report on the site visits at the committee’s next meeting on March 12, when a final selection may be made.

In a statement released Thursday, February 28, Ms. Moffitt named Ms. Halt, along with Bonny Gifford, Nauset Public Schools’ assistant superintendent; Steven Hiersche, Hopkinton Public Schools’ interim superintendent; and Mark Wilson, Falmouth Public Schools’ director of curriculum and instruction.

Twenty-nine candidates applied for the superintendent’s job. Ms. Halt was one of 10 semi-finalist candidates interviewed by the screening committee last week and reduced to four for final consideration.

Falmouth Public Schools’ superintendent Marc Dupuis announced last fall he would retire at the end of the school year in June, according to an article published March 1, online by the Cape Cod Times.

MVPS superintendent of schools James Weiss recommended Ms. Halt for the assistant superintendent’s job on the Island in July 2007, left vacant by Marjorie Harris’s retirement. In addition to teaching an induction course required for all new teachers and a teacher mentoring program since 2005, Ms. Halt had taught social studies, advanced placement U.S. history, and government during her 12 years on the faculty at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Ms. Halt was unavailable for comment on Friday, as she was off-Island at an accounting class she is taking towards a graduate certificate in management and finance from Suffolk University.

In a phone conversation with The Times on Saturday, Ms. Halt emphasized that her decision to apply for the Falmouth Schools’ superintendent job is about furthering her career.

“I want to make sure it’s clear to everyone that it’s not dissatisfaction about my job that led me to apply, but rather that this is an incredible opportunity,” she said. “I like the work I’m doing. This would be a career move for me to be able to make a significant contribution somewhere else.”

Ms. Halt said a commencement speech by Charlie Ergen, chairman of DISH Network Corporation and EchoStar Communications Corporation, at her son Cooper Johnson’s graduation from Wake Forest University last May inspired her to consider moving on to the next challenge.

“He told the graduates to never stop learning, to get really good at something and have the nerve to go whole hog,” she recalled.

Ms. Halt said she decided to “dip my toe in the water” and had applied for and gotten interviews in other school districts. She was thinking about applying for the Falmouth Public Schools superintendent job in January, when she was contacted by the executive search group of the Cape Cod Collaborative (CCC), which assisted the Falmouth School Committee.

In addition to helping with personnel searches, CCC offers its 12 member school districts, including Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School District, alternative and supplemental regular and special education programs for children aged 9 to 18, as well as therapy services and/or transportation services.

Ms. Halt said she views her selection as a finalist for the job as a reflection on Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools overall.

“Being considered for superintendent isn’t just based on my merit, but also on the combined merit of all the work that’s been done on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “People have seen how well our schools have done. Every school is a level one school, meeting its MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System] targets.”

Although her three-year MVPS contract is up on July 1, 2013, Ms. Halt said that is not a factor in her decision to look at other job options. “There has been no discussion about it or any indication that it would not be renewed,” she said.

Ms. Halt said she is just beginning the process of looking at her options and feels good about being chosen as a finalist for the Falmouth job.

“I don’t know how things will go; sometimes you have to take that risk,” she said. “If this isn’t the time, then I’m really happy in the job I have now and what we’re doing here. It’s all good.”

Update, March 13:

The Falmouth School Committee voted at a meeting on Tuesday night, March 12, to appoint Bonny Gifford as the new superintendent of Falmouth Public Schools.

“Being considered as a finalist for the Falmouth Superintendency was a great experience,” Ms. Halt said in an email in response to a request for comment from The Times today. “The support I received from my colleagues and the community was overwhelming and most appreciated.