The Sun (Lowell)
Clery tapped as interim superintendent
BILLERICA >> The School Committee voted unanimously Monday to appoint Kerry Clery as the interim superintendent for the 2023-2024 school year a month after Superintendent Tim Piwowar announced his impending departure.
Clery will step into the role July 1 when Piwowar will leave to be the superintendent of Westwood Public Schools. Clery will be stepping away from her role as assistant superintendent of Westford Public Schools after serving in the central office of the district for 11 years.
“I have been in love with teaching from a very early stage of my life, and my parents would tell you that from the very early days I was always modeling being a teacher, whether it be dolls, or animals or friends when they come over. I have never lost that passion,” Clery said during her May 18 interview with the School Committee.
Clery signaled during her interview that she would want to begin meeting with members of the district community even before her July 1 start date. She also said outright that she would be interested in pursuing the permanent superintendent position when the committee begins a comprehensive search this fall.
“I would want to have a listening session with the community. I would certainly want to have open meetings with staff members. I would want to meet with all of you,” said Clery. “I would aggressively look to make sure that we have a director of finance in place and move forward to making sure the end of year report is being handled and addressed, and submitted on time.”
When asked during her interview why she wants to work in Billerica, Clery said she wanted to be able to apply her passion for education to her own home community, as she lives in Billerica and has children in the school system.
“I have empathy and sympathy and understanding for the taxpayers, because I pay the taxes as well, for the parents because I am a parent in the district as well, and I take pride in the fact that I never lose sight of what it is like to be a principal and what it is like to be a teacher,” said Clery.
During the May 22 special meeting, the committee gave praise to Clery’s experience in education.
“I spoke to the School Committee chair in Westford, I spoke to the superintendent of schools in Westford and I spoke to the Westford Academy principal. They all think it would be a big loss if we were to choose Dr. Clery,” said committee member Mark Efstratiou. “The last question I asked them was if she was ready to be a superintendent, whether it be interim or permanent. Each one of them said ‘absolutely.’ That is very telling because they have something to lose if we were to choose her.”
“For Dr. Clery, 11 years in the central office working as assistant superintendent, building that skillset, being given those additional responsibilities during those years in Westford,” said committee member John Kleschinsky. “The intangible of being a resident and a parent, that is a nice-tohave, it wasn’t one of our requirements but she understands our district, understands our community and
is a parent in the district.”
Committee member Marion Depierro said she liked Clery’s emphasis that everything the administration does in the district is ultimately done for the students.
“Not just for academic achievement, but their overall, including emotional, whether they really enjoy school,” said Depierro. “That is really important and I think is something we have lost along the way.”
Committee member Michael Domina said he could very well picture Clery in
the role of superintendent, during both times of good news and bad news.
“I picture her in those scenarios, righting the ship when it needs to be straightened out and also celebrating the successes, but not too much to the point where you are not going to continue to work moving forward,” said Domina.
Domina also praised Clery’s habit of going into Westford’s schools and interacting with the community herself at least once a week.
Chair Annette Famolare said she liked the fact that Billerica is the only district Clery where applied for a superintendent role.
“We were the only community she applied to, with all of those superintendent jobs that have been opening up,” said Famolare. “I feel like she came in with good ideas and I feel like she wants to engage everyone. Not just the staff, not just the students but every person in the town.”
After each of the committee members affirmed that they all agreed that Clery would be their choice, Domina made a motion to appoint her, which was seconded and passed unanimously pending contract negotiations. The committee then went into a brief recess to call Clery and inform her that she was chosen, after which Famolare announced Clery accepted.
Clery was one of three finalists for the position. The other two were Quaboag Regional School District interim Superintendent Maureen Binienda and Winchendon Public Schools Superintendent Thaddeus
King, who each were interviewed by the School Committee on May 17.
While the search for an interim superintendent took place, the committee also had to fill the vacancy being left by Assistant Superintendent Jill Geiser, who was picked to be the next superintendent of Belmont Public Schools just days after Piwowar was picked for Westwood. On April 25 the committee voted to appoint Billerica Public Schools’ Humanities Coordinator Marian Dyer to the interim assistant superintendent role for next year.
A more comprehensive search by the committee for a permanent superintendent will get under way in the fall. Members of the committee have said it will take longer than the interim search, which was done on a short deadline and in competition with other local districts seeking to fill vacant superintendent roles.