Heidi DriscollHeidi Driscoll is designated to become new permanent superintendent-director later this year at Minuteman.UPDATED Feb. 28: After extended discussion, the Minuteman School Committee voted at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, to hire Heidi Driscoll, assistant superintendent of public schools in Scituate, to be permanent superintendent-director. Tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 28, the committee plans to meet in closed session to negotiate the terms of her contract.

Maggie Sharon, who has represented Dover for less than two weeks and not present for all the interviews with the candidates, abstained from voting for that reason; the other eight members, including the one representing Arlington, voted for Driscoll.

Some 70 people watched over Zoom, including Minuteman employees, staff members and parents.

Driscoll won out over the two other finalists: Christina Favreau, director of academic programs at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District in Fitchburg and Kathryn Whitaker, development coordinator at the same district. After ascertaining that Driscoll would accept the position, the committee voted 9-0 to enter executive session to "discuss strategy as it relates to negotiation with nonunion personnel," meaning Driscoll; the committee did not return to open session nor issue any results from that closed-door meeting.

Assuming that contract terms can be reached, Driscoll would succeed Interim Superintendent-Director Kevin Mahoney, who came out of retirement to take over Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District in mid-May, days after then-Superintendent-Director Kathleen Dawson was put on paid administrative leave. Dawson eventually resigned, in early September. Mahoney's contract runs through June 30, so it is likely that Driscoll would take over the next day, July 1.

The district has nine member municipalities including Arlington, each of which has a member on the committee; Arlington's is Sarah Montague. Arlington has 215 teens at the district's sole campus, Minuteman High School, in Lexington -- more than twice as many as any other community has there.

Montague was among those publicly leaning toward Driscoll from the outset of the three-hour meeting, calling her fair, firm, kind, passionate and capable of changing her mind about things.

In two rounds of discussions, while all committee members praised all three candidates, none preferred Favreau, and all said that it was a tough choice between Driscoll and Whitaker. In those nonvoting discussion rounds, the committee seemed almost evenly split between Driscoll and Whitaker. However, in the end, the perception of Driscoll as likely needing less of a learning curve, having an attitude of "quiet leadership" and being inately able to interact well with students, adapt and be a team player appeared to have won out. 

 "I thank [all three finalists] for going through a public interview process" that went from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for each on a single day devoted to each the previous week, said Pam Nourse earlier in the evening. Nourse led the recruitment process starting late last year, which attracted 27 applications, which were later whittled down by an ad hoc search committee.

Nourse, of Acton, was school committee chair in the first half of 2023, when turmoil began to engulf Minuteman; this intensified in early spring when Dawson refused to renew the contract of the long-term, extremely popular principal, George Clement. Public opposition to Dawson, who began work July 1, 2022, eventually ramped up dramatically, with a mass student walkout, a unanimous faculty vote of no confidence and letters on the subject being sent to Arlington Town Meeting. Some Minuteman staffers at school committee meetings over the summer accused Dawson of having a leadership style that alienated her subordinates and had led to the departures of half-a-dozen middle managers in less than one year; Dawson, in her rare public statements, consistently has denied any wrongdoing.

Among those favoring Driscoll on Thursday evening was Committee Chair Jeff Stulin, who said Driscoll came with a strong background at a previous "vo-tech" campus, had trained teachers at two state universities and possessed "a bigger view of the universe" than her competitors. He also said Driscoll was very familiar with special education, had coped with situations in which much of the staff had left and was keenly aware of "the invisible discrimination of low expectations" that has can be a hindrance to students who opt for a "vo-tech" high-school education.

Stulin began the meeting at 6:30 p.m. by giving a "special shout-out" to the nearly 150 people who had submitted written comments about the search process, calling them "well-thought-out, reasoned and professional."

Links to three videos featuring Driscoll, prior to her selection, are on YouTube: The community question-and-answer session, the staff Q and A and her interview at a special meeting of the Minuteman School Committee.

July 19, 2023:  2 closed sessions in one week for Minuteman School Committee about embattled schools chief

This news summary by YourArlington Editor Judith Pfeffer was published Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. It was updated Friday, Feb. 16, to clarify that the vote was 8 in favor of the chosen candidate and 1 abstention and also to add a photograph of Heidi Driscoll. It was updated Sunday, Feb. 18, to add links to videos featuring her interactions, prior to her being chosen, with community members, Minuteman staff and the Minuteman School Committee; and again Feb. 24, to correct the affiliation of finalist Kathryn Whitaker; YourArlington regrets the error.