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Preston hires consultant to conduct superintendent search

Preston — A longtime eastern Connecticut educator will be the lead consultant in the Preston Board of Education's search for a new superintendent in the coming months.

The Board of Education voted 5-1 Monday to hire New England School Development Council to lead the superintendent search that will begin in earnest in December. The firm is based in Marlborough, Mass., but the Preston search will be led by Elizabeth Osga, who retired in 2012 as Lyme-Old Lyme superintendent after four years there. She also led Griswold schools for 10 years and started her career as a teacher and assistant superintendent in Stonington.

Preston Superintendent John Welch announced last spring that he plans to retire at the end of the current 2016-17 school year, and the Board of Education hopes to have a successor in place by that time. Welch has served as Preston superintendent for the past 12 years.

The Board of Education spent much of Monday's special meeting hearing presentations from NESDC and Cooperative Education Services. NESDC will be paid $11,600 to lead the Preston search, starting with public forums once a contract is signed, through background checks of applicants and a final selection, said Board of Education member Sean Nugent, chairman of the search committee.

Only school board member Cindy Luty, also a member of the search committee, voted against hiring NESDC.

Board of Education Chairwoman Jan Clancy said the board also voted Monday to assign the current Superintendent Consultant Search Committee with the task of reviewing superintendent applications and interviewing candidates.

Now called the Superintendent Search Committee, it will screen initial applicants and conduct interviews of candidates, bringing finalist candidates to the full Board of Education in spring, Clancy said. The committee hopes to have a finalist selected by late April to mid-May, Nugent said.

Search committee members are school board members Chairman Nugent, Luty and Charles Raymond, Board of Finance member Melissa Lennon and community representative Heather Helwig, a Preston resident.

Preston won't be alone in searching for a new superintendent this year. Clancy said the board is somewhat concerned that east of the Connecticut River alone, there are eight school districts with superintendent vacancies or pending vacancies.

“Generally, there are usually about 10 candidates for these positions,” Clancy said.

Nugent said Osga was “very up front” about conducting the Preston search amid so much local competition. Nugent said the issue also arose last summer, when the school board conducted a study of whether to retain the current full-time superintendent or reduce the position to part time. Nugent said the report recommended keeping the full-time position, with the realization that the current salary of $124,757 would need to be raised.

“So many openings is an issue, but that is the reality of the environment we are working in,” Nugent said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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