Assistant superintendent role filled with special education expert from Nashville

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The school district got an assistant superintendent for student services Tuesday: Victoria Greer, who until her acceptance of the Cambridge job was serving as director of exceptional education at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools.

“Neither the blizzard nor the prospect of a move from Tennessee dissuaded Dr. Greer,” Superintendent Jeffrey Young told School Committee members at a special meeting held solely to fill the position. The five-minute special meeting came just before a budget retreat; the next committee meeting isn’t until March 5.

Young proposed Greer as his choice from among two finalists in a process that began with 25 applicants. The assistant superintendent will oversee the office of special education and have oversight of bilingual education.

The other finalist was Lauren Fain, an education consultant and recent director of special education for North Andover Public Schools, whose public interview a week ago lacked the spark of Greer’s the same night. Questions were also raised about how frequently Fain changed jobs, although she said two of her earliest moves were the result of officewide layoffs.

Greer, on the other hand, charmed committee members with blunt talk and a personal approach to issues such as the over-identification of young black males as being in need of special education. She vowed to come with an initiative to implement – her “least restrictive environment protocol” for students getting an Individualized Education Program – and got laughs by telling educators, “Even if I don’t get this job I’ll share it with you, because I think you need it.” The idea behind it: Put fewer students in expensive and likely unnecessary out-of-district placements – and start a reintegration program as well.

She also said the district needed a “full-fledged marketing plan” to eliminate the stigma of special education.

“You have a very strong foundation to start, but you’re ready to move to the next level,” Greer said last week.

Greer and her husband Walter have two children, a 3-year-old and 10-month-old, and she said the Cambridge job appealed to her in part because she would soon be taking advantage of Massachusetts’ terrific schools. But she said she didn’t go looking specifically for a job in Cambridge; she was urged to apply by her mentor and inspired by believing it was still time for her to “explore” and by a sister who, afflicted with breast cancer, urged her to “live like it’s your last day.”

“We want to take advantage of the opportunity,” Greer said. “This seems like a great place to be.”

Young said he was “delighted” to recommend Greer, whom he said had been the subject of a thorough background check over the past week.

Committee members voted unanimously for Greer’s appointment with the exception of Richard Harding, who was not at the meeting.

“Bringing in someone from the outside is always difficult,” member Patty Nolan said, but she felt Greer would be an asset to the district, which has “struggled to serve kids with a range of learning differences. [Greer] will help us do what we need to.”

Assistant superintendent for student services was one of three positions created by Young with committee approval in September, with brief reconsideration in October. Yet to come is the hiring of an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, replacing the retired Barbara VanSickle.

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