Stonington criticized for excluding public from panel to find next superintendent

Stonington - The chairman of the Democratic Town Committee is strongly criticizing the school board's intention to exclude residents who are not school officials from the committee that will search for a new superintendent of schools.

In a letter that was published in The Day on Sunday, Ray Trebisacci said the Board of Education should enthusiastically accept residents on the search committee and to do otherwise "would be an insult to the community and the democratic process."

School board Chairwoman Gail MacDonald, a fellow Democrat, has said that some superintendent candidates are reluctant to apply for an opening if they know a community member is on the search committee. They worry their interest in the position could be made public by that person.

Trebisacci called the comments "foolish" and "ridiculous."

"People should be involved in this process. It should be an inclusive process," he said.

Trebisacci said that to "play this secretive game and exclude people from the process is not a good thing."

He said such an attitude damages the support and confidence residents have in the school budget and is "responsible for voter reluctance to embrace the town budget."

MacDonald said Sunday that Trebisacci's letter is "full of inaccuracies."

"And I'd let it go at that," she said.

The board needs to find a successor for Leanne Masterjoseph, who has announced that she will resign on June 30 after 2½ years. The school board has appointed itself as a search committee and will bring in a consultant to help with the search.

MacDonald said consultants and other educational experts have "strongly discouraged" the board from having a resident on the search committee because of concerns about confidentiality. In addition, she said some consultants say candidates are reluctant to apply if a resident is on the search committee because they fear word of their interest in the job will get back to their employer.

"There are good reason for it," she said about the board's decision. "It would not be my recommendation to have a resident on the search committee. But the public needs to part of the process."

MacDonald said the board will ask residents what they want to see in a new superintendent through a survey and forums.

Because she does not expect Masterjoseph's eventual replacement to begin work until halfway through the 2012-13 school year, the board is scheduled to discuss and possibly appoint an interim superintendent when it meets Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the high school commons.

MacDonald said the school board served as the search committee that hired Masterjoseph and no residents were members of the committee. She said her recollection is the search committee that recommended the hiring of Michael McKee 15 years ago did include a resident. McKee worked as superintendent for 13 years before retiring and being replaced by Masterjoseph.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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