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New superintendent selected, but committee divided by final vote

Date: 5/18/2011

May 18, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — The Westfield School District has a new superintendent, but the decision was not, in the words of Mayor and School Committee Chair Daniel Knapik, "a slam-dunk."

At its May 9 meeting, the School Committee voted 4-3 to appoint Dr. Susan Scallion, a principal in the Napa, Calif., United School District, as the new superintendent. She will replace current Superintendent, Shirley Alvira, who will retire at the end of this school year.

Scallion was selected over three other candidates, including South Middle School Principal Ronald Rix, who was also a finalist four years ago when Alvira was selected for the superintendent's position.

"There are a number of people in the community that are shocked by this vote," Knapik said. "I think it sends a message to the new superintendent that there will be a healing process in the community."

Knapik added that he had cast his vote in favor of Rix as superintendent.

"I had heard from the community that they wanted someone who understands who we are, understands the community and is ready to start work right away," he explained.

Knapik said the qualifications presented by both Scallion and Rix made the final vote "extremely difficult" for the School Committee.

"Dr. Scallion had an extremely good interview and she scored exceptionally well through the process as the evaluation took place," Knapik said. "But so did Mr. Rix. Both had distinguished themselves throughout the process as top candidates."

He said that concern about the need to replace a number of senior staff members in the School Department had also influenced his final vote.

"A local person would know better who is qualified to fill the vacancies," he said.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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