Bob Rader, the Executive Director of CABE (The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) presented the few approaches for superintendent searches in Connecticut. All school board members, including the newly appointed four, were in attendance.
According to Rader, there are only a handful of Connecticut school board that conduct searches on their own. Most use search firms at a cost of $15 to $18,000. There are difficulties in finding superintendents, he explained, as it is a highly stressful job, and particularly in Connecticut, these school heads need certification and the ability to deal with town politics, as it is one of the only states where schools have no taxing authority or governmental authority on their own and are beholden to town boards. It’s one more reason that national searches result in few out-of-state candidates.
He did say however, that this search can be “an opportunity to restore trust in a school board” and that because of Suffield’s highly regarded reputation in education “It should not be as difficult as it might be in other districts to find someone willing and able.”
According to Rader, a typical search takes six to nine months and superintendents stay in a district an average of six years.
The board, for now h,as appointed itself as the search committee, but if it works with a firm (as done with the previous two superintendents) the firm will review and present candidates to the board, as well as work with the community to gather as much community input as possible. He spoke of search committees that consist of many layers of the community who interview the last few candidates and present their findings to the board, who has the ultimate job of hiring and creating a new contract.
He noted that confidentiality is important in the process as most applicants will be working superintendents who cannot risk their current jobs. Any meeting to discuss a particular superintendent candidate is not subject to the open meetings act. Once a superintendent is hired, it is appropriate for the he or she and the board to have a retreat in order to move forward, Rader said.
A few of those present at the meeting expressed concern over the negative press from the recent board problems. Others said they hoped a different search firm would provide a better match for the district after two failed hirings.
Former Superintendent Karen Baldwin submitted her resignation in December and the school board voted to release her from her contract early, beginning 2015, amid much discord. Former principal Mel Chafetz has been retained as interim superintendent. Four board members resigned amid the discord and were recently replaced.
Board Chair Jeanne Gee said the board is going to review previous processes to find any flaws and move forward in a positive direction. “We’re going to be hopeful,” she said.