Hampshire Regional selects Perrone as superintendent

The Hampshire Regional School District on Wednesday selected Vito Perrone as superintendent. The Westhamptron resident, shown here as a finalist for a similar position in Easthampton in 2023, will replace Diana Bonneville, who is retiring on June 30.

The Hampshire Regional School District on Wednesday selected Vito Perrone as superintendent. The Westhamptron resident, shown here as a finalist for a similar position in Easthampton in 2023, will replace Diana Bonneville, who is retiring on June 30. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO


Staff Writer

Published: 06-06-2024 3:10 PM

WESTHAMPTON — After thoughtful interviews and fraught debates over the two candidates for Hampshire Regional School District’s permanent superintendent position, the district’s five school committees all voted to offer Vito J. Perrone the job on Wednesday night.

During his 10-question interview before the vote, Perrone emphasized his close relationship to Hampshire Regional, where all of his children were educated, and his hopes for the future should he earn the position to succeed Diana Bonneville, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

“My children were prepared and ready for what’s next… [Hampshire Regional has] created an atmosphere and a culture where students persevere,” Perrone said. “I guarantee you this: Every decision I make will be made through the lens of what is best for the children.”

Perrone, a Westhampton resident and current assistant superintendent for West Springfield Public Schools, ultimately won the favor of the All Districts Committee over Marc J. Gosselin Jr., former superintendent of Region 12 schools in Connecticut.

But despite the unanimous vote, the decision was far from an easy one as members of the five committees disagreed over who would be the best fit to lead the regional district that covers five towns and includes 750 students.

Gosselin impressed the committees with his precise and concise answers to each of the 10 questions posed, as well as his strong academic background and familiarity with educational data and research.

However, concerns were raised over his potential for longevity in the position due to the fact that he left two of his previous superintendent positions before the conclusion of his contract and referred to the Hampshire Regional position as a “great step in [his] career.”

Gosselin did not have a chance to address this concern during the interview, which focused on the predetermined questions asked of both candidates.

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Perrone, on the other hand, expressed that he was “excited to think about ending [his] career” in the position, and that he has “six, seven years left as an educator.”

The committees also appreciated Perrone’s familiarity with the district and its unique challenges, citing the fact that he mentioned the district’s central office turnover and that he may be able to use some of his community networking assets to help fill important vacancies.

“When I looked at Vito Perrone, I liked that he lives close to the schools. We haven’t had that in a while,” said Don Willard, chair of the Chesterfield-Goshen School Committee. “[He is] familiar with our school system and our community, and that’s super important to me.”

However, Perrone’s charisma and local connections didn’t resonate equally among committee members, many of whom expressed concerns over a potential lack of professionalism in his leadership style.

In particular, the Williamsburg School Committee held out a dissenting vote until a second round of caucus negotiations, and maintained reservations even after assenting to the majority’s wishes.

Members of several committees pointed out that Perrone often lost focus when answering interview questions, and sometimes failed to give direct answers. Concerns were also raised around his respect for the boundaries of others when the audience noticed that Perrone excitedly and repeatedly slapped the arm of Southampton School Committee Chair Jon Lumbra, who sat next to him during the interview.

These worries fed into an overarching unease surrounding Perrone’s level of professionalism. Committees spent time carefully weighing the strengths in Perrone’s energy and charm against the pitfalls in his potential lack of professional polish, during which his previous controversial bid for the position of Easthampton’s superintendent was brought up.

In 2023, the position was offered to Perrone — who had been Easthampton High School’s principal for six years — but was subsequently rescinded over his use of the term “ladies” in a professional email during contract negotiations, which some considered a “microaggression.”

The committees appreciated that he addressed the previous controversy without prompting, saying at the beginning of his interview, “I attempted to earn a position at Easthampton, I’m sure you all know how that went.”

On the positive side, each committee acknowledged the passion and knowledge brought to the table by both candidates, and that they were grateful to be faced with such a difficult decision.

The committees’ endorsement of Perrone arose out of excitement about the energy he would bring to the position and his overt knowledge of the challenges he would face, his entrenchment within the local community, and his likelihood of maintaining stability in the district by remaining in the position for many years.

”What stood out to me was that Dr. Perrone seems to be a shining star where he is catching all of our attention, and I think that that’s one of the things that we really need,” said Tom Cleary, chair of the Hampshire Regional School Committee. “He can collect our attention and I think hopefully drive us forward with that shining star. He’s someone that is bigger than any one of us… I have a lot of hope and faith in his potential.”

Perrone’s job offer is contingent upon background investigations and contract negotiations, which will take place in the coming weeks. If he is successful in inking a deal with the district, Perrone plans to put teachers and students first in his leadership strategies by listening to their needs and promoting professional development. He said that his motto when it comes to leadership is, “How can I help?”

“We have to meet kids where they are,” he said. “Students want to know that you care about them.”

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.