Groton's Ramos expects process of selecting new superintendent to be more open

Groton - In the wake of complaints stemming from a closed-door meeting last week, Interim Superintendent John Ramos said Tuesday that he expects a more open process leading to the hiring of the next superintendent.

Instead of reviewing and possibly choosing a search firm during executive session, Ramos said the school board intends further discussion about the search at a March 25 meeting that will be open to the public.

A closed-door meeting on March 11 led to complaints about a lack of transparency by former school board member Natalie Burfoot Billing. She contends the choice of a superintendent is too sensitive a subject not to be talked about in the open.

The Day has filed a Freedom of Information complaint and contends the notice for the closed-door meeting was too vaguely worded.

Ramos said, based on legal counsel, he called for the March 11 executive session, noted on the agenda as "discussion of a personnel matter." The closed-door meeting was scheduled in anticipation of the vote by the board to accept the arbitrator's decision and fire former superintendent Paul Kadri, Ramos said. It had allowed an opportunity for the board "to debrief on any residual personnel-related issues in regard to the recent arbitrator's decision," he said,

During that meeting, Ramos said he encouraged the board to get the search for a new superintendent under way. The school board authorized him to solicit proposals from search firms.

"I kind of nudged the board on this," Ramos said. "I want to make sure, given the number of superintendents' seats available and the competition, the board gets someone of quality. It's really my sense of urgency that led us here."

He has since received five proposals from search firms, which were to be reviewed Monday during another executive session. That meeting was canceled late last week.

At no time during the March 11 meeting did anyone suggest that the meeting was illegal, Ramos said. Concern has since been raised, though he said there are differences of opinion.

He said Monday's meeting was canceled because of the number of firms that applied and the fact that only a half an hour was allotted to review the firms. He said part of the decision arose from the disagreements about the March 11 meeting. He consulted with a representative from the Freedom of Information office for guidance. Additionally, he said Board of Education Chairwoman Kirsten Hoyt "decided to go beyond what is required in order to ensure the public that there is nothing underhanded going on."

The newly devised process will include an open March 25 school board meeting to review search firms. On the same night, the school board will consider a resolution appointing the board as the initial search committee.

If adopted, Ramos said the group can meet with the search firm and determine "both the best inclusive process to follow and additional stakeholders to ensure a collaborative process." The search committee can then add to or drop members as necessary "to ensure an inclusive, collaborative process that gives voice to concerned stakeholders," he said.

Ramos said the selected firm would be able to advise the board on how best to "fully engage parents, local officials, and other members of the public to ensure transparency and, at the same time, confidentiality for candidates in order to get the most qualified pool of applicants."

Ramos said with his contract up at the end of June, time is growing short to get someone in place by July 1.

Since he is retired and can by law only earn 45 percent of the superintendent's salary, Ramos said he is not interested in the permanent position but loves the community and wants the best for the future of the school system.

g.smith@theday.com

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