Athol principal selected as superintendent for School Union 28

Shutesbury Elementary School

Shutesbury Elementary School Contributed Photo

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-20-2024 4:24 PM

Modified: 02-21-2024 10:51 AM


ERVING — Athol Community Elementary School Principal Shannon White-Cleveland is being tapped as the next School Union 28 superintendent, overseeing four K-6 elementary schools attended by children in Shutesbury, Leverett, Erving, Wendell and New Salem.

White-Cleveland, the principal at the Athol school since 2018, was selected in a unanimous vote by the Union 28 Joint Supervisory Committee Friday evening, following interviews and meetings with teachers, staff and community members, said Steven Blinder, chairman of the Union 28 Superintendent Search Committee since its formation last fall.

“Shannon’s ability to reach out to the community made her stand out,” said Blinder, of New Salem, who also chairs the Joint Supervisory Committee.

In an email Monday, White-Cleveland wrote that she is excited to join Union 28.

“The people I met through the hiring process were passionate about their schools and communities and I am eager to serve them,” White-Cleveland said.

Athol Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Matthew Ehrenworth said the district has supported White-Cleveland’s candidacy from the beginning and will begin a search process for the next ACES principal following the February break. 

“She will be bringing a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience with her and I believe that the district/s has/have made an excellent choice,” he said in a statement. 

White-Cleveland was one of three finalists to take over for Jennifer Culkeen, who is retiring at the end of her ninth year in the position. The four elementary schools in the district have an enrollment of about 525 students.

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Deanna LeBlanc, Gateway Regional School District’s director of curriculum, and Christine Shea, Westfield schools’ director of assessment and accountability, were the other finalists.

Blinder said all three interviewed were strong candidates from which to choose. “I think the committee felt all three candidates would do a fine job,” Blinder said.

A basic contract has been mailed to White-Cleveland. Blinder said the hope is to have the terms settled and White-Cleveland in place well in advance of Culkeen’s July 1 retirement.

Blinder said parents, teachers and others put in many hours of time and many people were responsible to ensure a successful search.

“I’ve been amazed at the breadth and depth of the effort,” Blinder said. “A lot of work went into it.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.