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Groton - The Board of Education decided Tuesday to offer the next superintendent a salary range of $170,000 to $185,000.
Board members chose the range after hearing from a search consultant from McPherson & Jacobson LLC compare the salaries, vacation time and other benefits offered by six districts in southeastern Connecticut, including Stonington, Waterford, Ledyard and East Lyme.
The current superintendent salary in Groton - $167,475 - was below five of its neighbors. North Stonington offered the lowest salary at $135,000 and Waterford the highest at $206,360.
Sharon Cox, a representative of McPherson & Jacobson, said the job advertisement for Groton wouldn't include the salary range but the company would share it with prospective candidates. The salary would be based on experience and negotiated along with other benefits.
Robert Witten, also with McPherson & Jacobson, said an experienced superintendent can save a school district money by making good decisions, and an inexperienced leader can cost a district a lot of money.
"You know what your community is comfortable with," Witten said. "And no matter what is offered, it's always going to be too much. But I think most people know what makes sense."
Cox said she would recommend a contract length of at least three years, as prospective candidates would expect such a commitment from the community. "Our advice is, if you want to be competitive, you don't have to be the front runner, of course, but it's important obviously, considering how much the person can cost you," to offer a salary commensurate with experience, Cox said.
Groton school board member Kim Shepardson Watson said she wants to be able to offer someone the top of the salary scale if their experience warrants it. "The reality is that we're going to pay a big buck for whoever we get," she said.
Board Vice Chairwoman Beth Gianacoplos said the salary put forward will also determine who applies. "This is the number that will say, 'Is it worth it for me to do this or not?'" she said.
The school board plans to hire a new superintendent by the end of August and held forums Monday and Tuesday to ask the community what it wants in a school leader.
A community survey about the qualities of the next superintendent is also available on the school district website until June 20.
The school board fired former Superintendent Paul Kadri on March 5 for alleged mistreatment of employees. Kadri was placed on leave in May 2012, and the board ordered an investigation at that time into claims he was harassing and intimidating employees, most of whom were women. Kadri has maintained he did nothing wrong.
Current Interim Superintendent John Ramos leaves at the end of the month. Sean McKenna, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, takes over the interim post July 1 and will be the fourth person to hold the job since Kadri was placed on leave.