NEW BEDFORD — With less than four months before the current superintendent leaves New Bedford, the search for her successor is narrowing.

The final list of applicants to replace Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools Dr. Pia Durkin, who announced her resignation late last year, citing "major philosophical differences" with current and incoming members of the School Committee, was announced at Keith Middle School on Wednesday night.

Don Macrino and Dan McCormick of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the executive firm selected to lead the search, announced the list of four final candidates in front of the School Committee and a collection of employees from the school system.

After starting with an initial pool of 39 total applicants, Macrino and McCormick worked the list down to 10 individuals for the School Committee to interview, starting last Tuesday and ending with final deliberation by school committee on Friday leading to the four final candidates.

Thomas Anderson, Superintendent of Randolph schools; Robert Girardi Jr., Superintendent of Maynard schools; Heather Larkin, director of guidance and pupil personnel services at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School; and Ana Riley, Superintendent of Portsmouth schools in Rhode Island and former Superintendent of Dartmouth Public Schools, were ultimately selected as the finalists by the School Committee, which will perform site visits in the finalists' districts during the week of March 12. The four candidates will then be publicly interviewed the week of March 19, with the final vote to appoint a new superintendent scheduled for March 26.

Macrino described the screening process he led alongside McCormick to reach the final four candidates. First, the two interviewed 134 people over a three day period through focus groups to determine what the city is looking for in their next leader, and that information was also obtained from 656 responses to their online survey. Macrino says that they then built a profile and a report based on the information they collected.

“We then took the 24 applicants and we ran them through that filter. Who had these characteristics? What was their body of work? So on and so forth. That's how we narrowed it down to the 10 candidates that came before the Screening Committee,” Macrino explained. “Then, the Screening Committee did its work by asking 10 questions and follow up questions and narrowing it down even further to the final four that were announced tonight.”

School Committee Member Josh Amaral commended the efforts made by the Screening Committee in narrowing down the top 10 choices for the district to a remainder of four to choose from.

“The Screening Committee put a lot of effort and time into this. We met four days last week from Tuesday through Friday for basically four hours a meeting plus some work at home to screen the resumes and work through it that way,” Amaral recalled. “I think it's a strong group of people from different backgrounds and with different skill sets. They'll bring different things to the table, all great things.”

Macrino says that once the School Committee selects a final choice for superintendent, an extensive background check will be performed by third party executive screening firm Baker-Eubanks, a process he describes as “very in-depth.”

“I think New Bedford should be very pleased with the number of candidates who applied and the quality of the candidates who applied,” said Macrino. “When we get down to this part where there a four, it shows that they really are the best choices.”

The final vote to appoint a new superintendent scheduled for March 26. Once selected, the new superintendent would step into the position on July 1.

Read the biographies of each candidate here: