Board of Education Chairman Darrell Trump recalled the seven-month-long journey in Monroe's search for a new superintendent of schools that began soon after Dr. Colleen Palmer left the district to accept the top job in Weston.
The New England School Development Council, a consultant assisting the district in its search for Palmer's replacement, led several focus groups and Trump said the search committee advertised the position to networks in New England, New York and New Jersey, to colleges and on the Internet.
Trump said the focus groups showed townspeople wanted a superintendent who could build relationships and who is open to public input.
The pool was whittled down to six candidates who were asked for interviews before the search committee unanimously selected James Agostine, the superintendent of Region 16, which includes schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls.
In visits to both communities, Trump said feedback about Agostine included, "The best superintendent we ever had;" "It's amazing what this superintendent has done for this district;" and "You found a jewel."
Agostine and his wife, Lisa, attended a Monday night reception in the Masuk High School media center welcoming him to town, before the Board of Education meeting. The Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Agostine. Then he signed a three year contract with a starting salary of $180,000.
"Folks, we have us a new superintendent," Trump said, as those in attendance gave Agostine a standing ovation.
Agostine said, "I aspire to be in a community like this. My educational background and my experience in Region 16 has prepared me for this."
Agostine has been a middle school teacher, assistant principal, principal, has served as superintendent for Prospect/Beacon Falls for the last four years, and has been a Board of Education member in Region 14.
John Goetz is serving as Monroe's interim superintendent, until Agostine is ready to take over.
When asked when Agostine's first day would be, Trump said Region 16 can hold Agostine for 90 days. "We're hoping the board will release him after Christmas," he added.
'You'll Enjoy Monroe'
Trump had search committee members Kathy Moraveck, a Parents Council representative; Jeff Seymour, teachers union president; and Jack Ceccolini, principal of Jockey Hollow Middle School, stand up to be recognized for their contributions to the process.
"I'm thrilled to have been part of the process," Moraveck said. "I feel we have an outstanding superintendent for our town."
Ceccoloni said, "Welcome Jim. It's going to be a great experience."
Kelly Plunkett, a Board of Education member who served on the search committee, said Agostine was successful in getting budgets passed.
Lee Crouch, another board member, said of Agostine, "He has the necessary people skills to get us all to collaborate. He's a great addition."
Fellow board member, Mark Antinozzi, said he was impressed that Agostine is a man who can drive a backhoe.
First Selectman Steve Vavrek gave Agostine an official greeting from the town.
"You've gotta vote to hire this guy," Vavrek said. "I said, 'You've got to have someone who agrees with the infrastructure needs of the town as a whole."
He also said the town needs someone who can deal with Monroe's budget referendums.
Vavrek said Monroe should have a turf field. "After I heard he got one for Pomperaug, I said, 'This is the guy,'" he joked, as the room erupted into laughter.
Phyllis Kansky, a Democrat challenging Vavrek in the municipal election on Tuesday, attended the reception welcoming Agostine and had previously said, if elected, that she and the superintendent will be joined at the hip.
"People talk about being tied at the hip," Vavrek said, before putting his arm around Agostine and adding, "Buddy, welcome to the community. You'll enjoy Monroe."