ANDOVER — The search for a director of student services for Andover Public Schools has reached a dead end.

The School Department has opted against hiring either of its two finalists and will instead re-open the search in the fall, according to a memo that Superintendent Marinel McGrath sent out to the school community Friday morning.

"... This is a very complex position requiring significant experience in several areas including special needs programming, exceptional interpersonal skills and legal knowledge and experience,"  McGrath wrote. 

"While each of our finalists had elements of what we were looking for, neither had the depth and breadth of experience required to lead a school system of Andover's size and complexity."

Beverly Shea, director of pupil personnel services in Hanover, and Maureen Ryan, coordinator of secondary special education in North Reading, were vying for the position said to carry a salary of between $117,000 and $125,000.

McGrath said the search will re-open this fall, when a more diverse candidate pool might be available. At that time, the process will be led by a different, interim superintendent. McGrath retires from her post this July. 

"Several school districts have recently opened and closed searches due to a low number of available candidates," McGrath wrote. 

In the meantime, McGrath said she will appoint an interim director, "likely from an external field of experienced candidates who seek interim positions, to work with our special educators and our parents next year."

The director of student services oversees the delivery of educational services to students that augment and supplement regular classroom education, including special education, school nursing services, home tutoring and oversight of the education of homeless children, the job posting says.

The position is currently filled by Amy Reese, who has served as interim director following the retirement of Joyce Laundry last June.

Sheena Stack, co-chairwoman of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, said the news that the current search would close without a new director was disappointing.

"We are disappointed and concerned with how the Andover Public Schools did this search," she said. "They didn't involve SEPAC executive council in the hiring committee for the director of student services position, where there has historically always been leadership from SEPAC on the hiring committees."

Stack continued that SEPAC had requested that an outside firm lead the search, but was denied, saying that it's a "very important, complex position, especially when the town isn't doing well in special education."

Stack said that parent focus groups from SEPAC met with both finalists, and felt that Ryan would have been great for the position, saying she would have been "what this town needed."

"We need someone to come in and overhaul the whole special education system," she said.

McGrath had been expected to announce her decision on the new hire at the April 2 School Committee meeting. But she instead reported that she needed more time to research the finalists. 

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