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New London - Parents, students, current and former school employees, and city residents expressed equal parts frustration and optimism at a forum held Tuesday night to gather community input for the city's superintendent search.
The discussion was focused on identifying the positive qualities of the city and its schools that can attract qualified candidates for the job, what issues the candidates should understand to be successful in New London, and what skills or characteristics the candidates should possess.
Those who shared their thoughts were encouraged by the search firm to do so without providing their names to allow for a more open dialogue.
Respondents pointed to the city's diversity, history, small town vibe and waterfront, among others, as things that make New London a good place to live and work. The fact that the school system will soon be the state's only all-magnet district was touted as another strong attraction.
The unpredictability of the district's budget, the intense scrutiny that comes with the job, the implementation of mandated standards and the nature of New London politics were listed among the many issues that the new superintendent will face.
Those who spoke were in agreement that the new superintendent should be someone who can relate to the city's diverse population, is willing to invest themselves in the community, will be transparent in the operation of the school system and can work effectively with the Board of Education.
"We will, after these sessions are over, identify the key things we heard repeated from every single group," said Sharon Cox, a search consultant for the firm McPherson & Jacobson, which is running the city's search.
Cox said she will present the board with a report that includes every comment from community members and other stakeholders to "try to build an understanding of how everyone in the district feels so that when the new superintendent comes in, they can work from that common understanding."
In addition to Tuesday's community forum, members of the search committee held similar forums with New London High School students, district teachers and members of the City Council. Meetings with district administrators and staff are scheduled for today.