SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH NOW UNDERWAY AS FIRM SOLICITS INPUT FROM COMMUNITY TO DEVELOP CANDIDATE PROFILE
Representatives of Leadership Advantage, the search firm hired by the district to help the Board find a replacement for retiring Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick, held two community forums late last month - the first on September 19 and a second on the 29th. The meetings were designed to solicit from community members the qualities they would like to see in the new Superintendent as the firm’s North Shore search team, made up of three former school district leaders, develops a candidate profile to guide their efforts.
About a dozen residents, in addition to the five school board trustees sprinkled about in the audience, attended the September 19th forum, with two of the head hunting firm’s three man team, Dr. Frank Auriemma and Dr. Michael Kuchar, leading the hour and half long discussion.
The two former Superintendents asked audience members to consider three questions - “What does the School District do well”; “what would you like to see the school district do better”; and, “what qualities would you like to see in a new Superintendent.”
In response to the first question, there seemed to be agreement among those residents who spoke that the district offers a rich variety of opportunities to students, both in its course offerings and its extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. “North Shore provides a well-rounded education,” one gentleman, a retired teacher, said. He added that that he believed the district has a very good teaching faculty that is “willing to go above and beyond normal expectations.”
Another resident said that this is a creative community and that the school district reflects that quality, and that the district listens to the community.
“You may not get the answer you want,” said still another, “but there is a willingness to hear out people at every level.”
When asked the second question regarding areas needing improvement, a resident questioned that observation and cited a board meeting he had attended back in later 2012 at which many in the community protested the District’s proposal to end Italian as a foreign language course offering.
The Board and Superintendent, he explained, failed to accurately read the community, fifty percent of which, he said, is of Italian ancestry, when they went ahead with a vote to remove the language from those offered by the district. (That action was later rescinded in response to continued protestations from community members.)
As for other areas needing improvement, the retired teacher who had spoken earlier, said that he believed there needed to be more equal treatment and adherence to district policies in dealing with both students and faculty.
Another resident questioned whether the district valued “incumbency” over “competency” when it came to promotions.
He added that he believed that there is severe discoordination between the Middle School and High School. He criticized a “fluff piece” in the local press about the Middle School principal testifying before the United States Senate Education committee on that very issue.
Another resident disagreed, saying that he believed the speaker was being “ungenerous” as it was quite an achievement for the Middle School Principal to be invited to address the Senate Committee on the issue. He said that it was important for the search firm to develop the “strongest pool” by considering candidates both internally and externally.
The same resident said that one weakness within the district was inconsistency among elementary schools. The schools, he continued, “have pockets of brilliance but are not coordinated at a whole.”
Another resident said that she would like the district to become more competitive academically relative to peer districts, with students being accepted to comparably prestigious universities.
As for the qualities a North Shore Superintendent ought to possess, one resident said that he does not want someone who “tries to be all things to all people.” He continued that he wants someone who is especially strong in the English literature and the humanities, and who does not go for the latest fads, but who has a clear vision and philosophy.
“If he uses ‘new and exciting’ in a sentence,” he continued, “he should be fired for cause.”
Another resident agreed, and said that the new superintendent should have “a proven record of being a master teacher,” and who has demonstrated that he can “truly be an educational leader, who will strengthen what we have,” rather than “change everything around.”
And still another resident said that he would like a Superintendent who has the ability to create a “positive school culture.” Pressed by Dr. Kuchar to explain what he meant, the gentleman replied a culture in which everyone - students, teachers, parents say “I want to be here, it is a great feeling to be here; this a a great place to be.” .
One resident, who was cold called by Dr. Kuchar, said he wanted a Superintendent who is willing to stand up to the teachers union when it comes to getting rid of bad teachers. He said for the most part he has had good experiences, but cited a negative experience and believed more could be done to remove the teacher from the classroom.
As the forum drew to a close, Drs. Kuchar and Auriemma explained the process moving forward.
Based on the input of community members at the two meetings, as well as from teachers, parents, and students at the district’s schools, Leadership Advantage will develop a profile and begin accepting applications and actively reaching out to prospective candidates, with both internal and external applicants going through the same process.
After an "exhaustive" screening process, they will recommend four or five finalists to the board, with the trustees also receiving the names and applications of all those who had been screened, but were not recommended.
Ultimately, they said, it is the school board that is “the master of the process.”
A second round of meetings will be held in the spring at which community members and parents will have the opportunity to meet the the board's choice, and again, to offer feedback.
The North Shore Superintendent’s position, Dr. Aumiella and Dr. Kuchar explained, is the most desirable in the region right now because of both the school district’s academic reputation and its financial well-being and stability. And as a result, they said they expect to have a very strong pool of candidates.