Non-union construction blocked in Mass.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, the city of Springfield (MA) Finance Control Board yesterday announced the appointment of a 37-member community advisory panel to assist in the search for a new superintendent of schools. Approximately 20 candidates are vying for the superintendent position, and the list will soon be pared down to three or four finalists by a hired consultant, control board Chairman Christopher F. Gabrieli said during a board meeting at City Hall.

The community panel is larger than first expected, but reflects the large, diverse group that is invested in the educational system, Gabrieli said. The group includes parents, youths, educators, clergy, business and labor representatives, and others.

"I am confident that our process will move smoothly and will allow for all of the committee members to have input," Gabrieli said.

Gabrieli also discussed the city's state loan. Gabrieli said he believes Springfield should be granted a 20-year period to pay back a $52 million, interest-free state loan, as sought by local officials. The city received the loan in 2004, and by law must pay it back in full over the next five years, unless an extension is granted.

"I think that the work Springfield has done at some real sacrifice to citizens living here shows tremendous fiscal discipline (and evidence) Springfield can pay it back," Gabrieli said. "I think the reward should be not this sort of onerous level of payback."

Gov. Deval L. Patrick is considering submitting legislation to extend the loan repayment.

The board chose not to extend the contract of Superintendent of Schools Joseph P. Burke. Burke's latest one-year contract expires June 30, and the control board is hoping his successor will be ready to start July 1.

The candidates thus far are both local and from around the country, Gabrieli said.

Burke said on Tuesday that he would not fight to keep his job. He asked four School Committee members to halt efforts to extend his contract, saying his wish was to prevent unnecessary chaos and disruption for the school system.

The newly appointed community advisory panel, along with the School Committee and control board, will separately interview the finalists, expected to take place by the first week of May, Gabrieli said.

The community panel includes: the presidents of Western New England College, American International College, and Springfield Technical Community College; Springfield's retired assistant schools superintendent Teresa E. Regina; Mayoral Chief of Staff Denise R. Jordan; City Councilor Jose F. Tosado; and Springfield Education Association President Timothy T. Collins.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno praised the diversity of the community panel, and also said he commends Burke for not fighting the board's decision to seek a new superintendent.

The control board also voted to authorize a study to evaluate the proposed use of project labor agreements at two future school construction projects. The city plans to build a new Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School and eventually a new Forest Park Middle School.

Under a project labor agreement, a city enters into agreements with contractors and unions to ensure that the job's workers get fair wages and benefits and safety training, that a percentage of jobs go to minorities, that apprenticeship programs train young people in building trades, and that the job will be completed on time and on budget.


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