In a move that will come as a pleasant surprise to many in the Belmont education sphere, the Belmont School Committee voted unanimously to enter into negotiations with "interim" Belmont Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston to extend the veteran educators contract with the town for an additional year.
If contract negotiations are successful, the former Chelsea School Superintendent will continue as head of the 4,000 student Belmont district until June 30, 2014.
In March the School Committee voted to extend Kingston's contract to June of 2013 after determining it was not prepared to marshal the effort to secure a new superintendent by that date.
"Discussions I've had with other people in the community identified Dr. Kingston as a very thoughtful, consistent, calm leader who also listens to what his colleagues say and takes input from the School Committee," said Laurie Graham, chairwoman of the Belmont School Committee at its meeting at the Chenery Middle School Thursday, Nov. 1.
"For this and many other reasons, this is a very good move for the system, for the community, for the students and staff," said Graham.
Comments from educators since Kingston's arrival have been overwhelmingly positive from residents and staff on the Arlington resident's experience and deft handling of the district.
"[Belmont]'s an engaging community with a great deal of energy and commitment," said Kingston, joking that he was wondering "who was going to push the wheelchair around" if he stayed another year.
The committee's action to secure Kingston's services was based on the current landscape both in the limited number of superintendent candidates and the building of the
After a September meeting with Glenn Koocher, executive director of the
Massachusetts Association of School Committees, it became apparent that competition for superintendent candidates will be significant in the coming year as many school districts are seeking top-line applicants and there was little chance Belmont would be able to "skim the creme from the top" of that pool, according to the Committee's Dan Scharfman.
In addition, Kingston is an intergal part of the team that is building the future course for education in the town through long-term planning and building a far reaching strategic plan, said Kevin Cunningham, school committee member.
"An additional year will allow us to reach that arc ... and transitioning now (to a new superintendent) would not serve our purposes," said Cunningham.
Retaining Kingston will also allow the stability in administration during contract negotiations with teachers and staff which begins in 2013.
Graham said the additional time will allow the committee to cement goals and a vision for the next superintendent with a search process set to commence in September of 2013.
The Arlington resident was selected in June 2011 as interim superintendent after the then Belmont superintendent George Entwistle left to take over a school district in his native Maine.
Kingston was originally hired for a single year to allow the School Committee to begin the process of hiring a successor.