Groton needs 'strong leadership' from next school superintendent

Groton - Dysfunctional relationships and inconsistencies have created mistrust among school officials, board members, teachers, administrators and parents, and Groton needs "strong leadership" in its next superintendent to unify the district, according to a report issued this week by the executive recruitment consultant McPherson & Jacobson, LLC.

The Board of Education hired the firm to help with its search for the next superintendent, whom it hopes to hire as early as next month. Part of the search involves collecting input from the community, and the report released this week summarized seven school and community sessions held on June 17 and 18. The consultant also gathered responses electronically June 19 and 20.

The school board meets next at 7 p.m. on Monday in the Town Hall Annex, and is expected to discuss the latest update on the search.

Sean McKenna, the former assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, took over as interim superintendent on July 1, replacing John Ramos, who left at the end of June. McKenna is the fourth person to serve in the role since the school board fired former Superintendent Paul Kadri in March.

The consultant report said that during discussions among administrators, staff, parents and the public, consistent themes emerged.

Each group was asked to reflect on four topics: What was good about the community, what was good about the schools, what the next superintendent should be aware of, and what qualities and skills the next school leader should have.

The report said residents pointed to "a deep sense of community commitment" expressed through volunteerism, the diversity of the population, and the rich local culture as some of the positives about Groton. Residents also praised the "dedicated staff" in the schools, taxpayer support for education and "forward-thinking initiatives" such as the robotics program as positives.

But the groups also said the next superintendent must arrive prepared.

Those who responded pointed out that Groton's government is complicated, that "dysfunctional relationships" don't work, and that the community is facing a diminishing financial base. They said sound budgeting is crucial to the future.

Residents added that inconsistencies in the district "have brought about mistrust between most of the partners of the schools … community, government, board, administration, staff, teachers and parents. However, at the core of this has been the lack of strong leadership needed to pull all the parties together to focus on a unified direction for the school district."

The report said those in the sessions want "an experienced educational leader who has 'walked the walk,'" and someone with a proven track record of success.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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