WESTBOROUGH – A replacement for Amber Bock as Westborough’s school superintendent could be named as soon as Monday, Feb. 12.
After conducting a second round of interviews on Wednesday, Feb. 7, the School Committee announced it will meet on Feb. 12 to consider who among the three finalists – Westborough High School Principal Brian Callaghan, Assistant Superintendent for Westwood Public Schools Allison Borchers, and Kristin DeFrancisco, assistant superintendent for the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District – will become the next superintendent.
The second round of interviews – held at Town Hall – followed a similar format as the previous round held on Monday, Feb. 5. Each candidate was asked a series of questions from the committee. The questions ranged from school safety and handling budgets and personnel district-wide to learning from mistakes and how to handle criticism.
Callaghan was the first candidate who spoke. On being asked about how superintendents could be more involved in the community, he replied, “I love service, I love volunteering. Volunteering is a key aspect in building community.”
When it comes to working with the other principals, he said he “would continue with the practice that Amber has extended,” including meetings on a regular basis.
Callaghan said that while he has no experience in managing budgets across school buildings, he has been a member of three school building committees. This includes having a turf field installed at the high school.
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Should he be selected superintendent, Callaghan would spend the first 60 days “making himself available to listen” to concerns, and getting into the schools.
“I am passionate about this work,” he said. “I bring more than 30 years of experience.”
DeFrancisco spoke next. On setting budgets, she recalled her experience when Dunstable had to request an operational override for fiscal 2024. She said there were joint meetings with the town manager, the Finance Committee and the schools.
“It was a lot of hard work,” she said.
“A budget is something you don’t do alone,” she added.
On the issue of school safety and security, DeFrancisco said it was important to be transparent with parents. She added the importance of having not only cameras and school resource officers, but clear policies on bullying and those with allergies.
When it comes to handling criticism, DeFrancisco said it should be handled “carefully,” but would encourage the opportunity to meet those critics and discover the reason behind it.
Should she be chosen as superintendent, DeFrancisco would “lean in and listen” and form a strategic plan in the first 60 days.
Borchers wrapped up the second round of interviews. When asked about learning from a mistake, she recalled setting up an advisory board at the middle school while she was principal at the time.
“The first attempts to do the work were a disaster,” she said.
She and the staff learned from those mistakes to make the advisory board work better.
When it comes to special needs, she said nothing beats a “good SEPAC [special education parent advisory council].”
On working with principals across the district, Borchers said “The principal’s job is an important one. They are the instructional leaders.”
When it comes to school safety and security, she said her main goal is to make sure the schools take care of students and their mental health.
On school budgets, Borchers said, “We need to keep everything in balance … there’s a lot of back and forth.”
Should Borchers become the next superintendent, she would “establish strong working relationships, look at the district with another pair of eyes, and see what the big things are.”