No matter how deep her love of Andover Public Schools, Claudia Bach might’ve been forgiven a decision to stay in retirement rather than pick up her old job, as the town’s superintendent, pending the search for someone to replace Sheldon Berman.
For one thing, there’s the matter of a pandemic that’s scrambled public education across the country. Andover has cohorts of students learning from home, or learning on a blended schedule that puts them in school for part of the week and in a virtual classroom for the other part.
It’s not like everything is settled, either. COVID-19 numbers are surging in Massachusetts, suggesting the need for caution if not more dramatic steps to limit the spread of the virus.
On the other hand are families pressing the schools to return kids to something resembling a regular, in-class schedule as quickly as possible.
Then, there’s the matter of safety — for teachers, staff and students.
If all of that wasn’t challenge enough, Andover faces unique issues with outdated school buildings that need to be replaced, as well as the question of how to pay for it. And even with the progress that Berman made over five and a half years in the job, the former superintendent was known to stir controversy and left some fresh wounds that will need attention.
All of it could’ve discouraged anyone. But Bach is not only ready to address those challenges, she tells reporter Madeline Hughes she is hopeful she can help the district make progress so the next superintendent walks into a good position.
“Rather than holding steady, we need to move forward,” she said.
It’s encouraging that Bach says she’s all ears as she comes back into her former job, even on a six-month basis, with plans to hear out those frustrated by the hybrid learning model and the restrictions put in place due to the pandemic.
It would be unfair to set expectations too high for an interim leader, even one as experienced as Bach.
But at a minimum, she gives Andover the assurance its schools are in good hands until it finds a new superintendent.