New London's superintendent search narrows to five

New London - One step closer to choosing a new chief executive for the city's school system, the committee tasked with finding the next superintendent of schools on Tuesday selected a handful of finalists for interviews.

Out of nine applications for the job, the search committee chose five candidates that it intends to interview later this month, Board of Education President Margaret Mary Curtin said Wednesday.

The job posting, which was advertised for about a month, originally garnered interest from 12 candidates.

"Two or three candidates withdrew. I don't know why, perhaps they got another job," Curtin said. "So we reviewed the nine remaining applications and chose five."

The job opening attracted local candidates and well as some from across the country, Curtin said. The candidate pool was close to evenly split between men and women, she said.

When it hired the Nebraska-based consulting firm McPherson & Jacobson to lead the superintendent search instead of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the city's board indicated that it favored a nationwide search.

The vacancy was advertised with the American Association of School Administrators, Education Week magazine and the McPherson & Jacobson website. An announcement of the vacancy was also sent to state school boards and superintendent associations throughout the United States, the firm said.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who was appointed to the 14-person search committee, said he has recused himself from reviewing applications to this point because he might know one or two of the candidates.

"I thought it would be best to make sure there wouldn't be a conflict in case someone I know has applied," Finizio said. "If the finalists selected are not any of the people I know, I will gladly meet with all the finalists and have whatever input is appropriate. But until then, I'd rather err on side of ethical safety."

Despite the state's ongoing involvement in the city's school system, state-appointed special master Steven J. Adamowski has not been involved in reviewing applications or selecting finalists, he said. He does plan to be involved as the committee narrows down its short list, however.

When the search committee does pick its recommended candidate, the state's education commissioner, Stefan Pryor, is likely to have some level of oversight as well.

"When we do get to the finalist stage, I anticipate the commissioner, either himself or through a designee, would be involved in vetting that finalist," Adamowski said.

The state's interest, Adamowski said, is to make sure the candidate is someone who is capable of carrying out the Strategic Operating Plan the board approved last year.

"I'm sure that we're not going to recommend anyone who isn't qualified for the job," Curtin said. "I'm confident whoever we recommend will be acceptable to the state."

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

Once the 14-person search committee selects its preferred candidate, the school board will have to vote to approve hiring that candidate. All seven board members are part of the superintendent search committee.

Curtin said the board could select its next superintendent by early June.

c.young@theday.com

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