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Search for superintendent begins in New London

By Colin A. Young

Publication: The Day

Published December 06. 2013 4:00AM

New London - Just days after being sworn into office, the Board of Education met Thursday night with the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education to take the first step in its search for a new superintendent of schools.

"The superintendent is your one true employee," Robert J. Rader told the board. "He or she will be the person who will become the lightning rod for much of what happens, your most trusted adviser, the person you need to work with the closest in order to make the gains that you've already started to make in a pretty big way continue."

Steven J. Adamowski, the special master appointed by the state to oversee the city's school system, called Thursday's workshop "the first step of the process in which the Board of Education needs to outline the decisions that they will need to make going forward."

In April, the board voted 6-1 to not renew the contract of Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer, whose last day on the job will be June 30.

First, Rader said, the board must decide on a search consultant. The board could either contract CABE to act as a search consultant, or it could request proposals from and hire a private search firm.

If the board opts to use CABE as its consultant, the full cost of about $30,000 will be covered by funds from a legislative appropriation to support the state's involvement in New London and Windham. If the board chooses a private firm, the approximately $30,000 budgeted for the search will be covered by the state appropriation, but the board will have to pay the difference.

Then, before starting the search in earnest, the board must decide who will comprise its search committee. The board, as a committee of the whole, could constitute the entire search committee, or it could appoint a committee of board members, community members, teachers and other stakeholders.

"I would like to see the community be involved," board President Margaret Mary Curtin said. "I would just want to make sure everyone is heard."

It would then be up to the search committee to work with the consultant to come up with the qualities it would like to see in a superintendent, advertise the position, identify candidates and, ultimately, make a recommendation to the board.

As a result of the state's involvement in the city's school system, Adamowski said, he or the state commissioner of education could review the candidates the board decides to interview and eliminate any they find to be unqualified.

"We will not be in a situation where I or the commissioner is in a position of having to veto something the board wants to do or tell you not to do something," he told the board. "We would like to simply make sure that the depth and quality of the candidates that go before you as finalists is sufficient."

Adamowski has previously recommended that the new superintendent's salary be set to a competitive level, that he or she be given a three-year contract and that the renewal of the superintendent's contract be determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets established in the district's strategic operating plan.

"Basically, they have to find a good candidate willing to come here and ensure that if they do a good job and meet student achievement targets, that they would be ensured some longevity," he said.

The search process is expected to take between four and six months, but Adamowski said he believes both the board and the community will benefit from having gone through it.

"In my experience, the hiring of a new superintendent is generally a unifying experience for the board and the community," Adamowski said. "I hope it will be in this case as well."

c.young@theday.com

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