School Supt. Search Committee Convenes for First Meeting

The search for a new superintendent of schools has officially begun this week after the Search Committee convened for its first meeting on Monday night at the School Administration Building.

Led by Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), and School Committee Chair Tom Abruzzese, 12 of the 13 members of the Search Committee were present.

One of the first orders of business was making introductions and then working on the timeline and job description for potential candidates.

“This is a process that takes at least eight to 12 weeks,” said Koocher. “It is a true process…We have a rough draft (of the description), but we want to get this done first so we can have it ready to go out at the end of August to cast a net for candidates. The job is out there now. Anyone can see it. We’ve had inquiries – a number of people who might be interested in applying. However it is vacation season and people are away, and we expect the interest to pick up in August.”

Those on the Search Committee include:  Yrma Fiestas, Dorothy Martin-Long, School Committeeman Frank Parker, Oswaldo Costanza, Teacher Devon Abruzzese, Football Coach Theluxon Pierre, Teacher Union President Kim Auger, EHS Art Director Amanda Gil, School Committeeman David Ela, School Committeeman Marcony Barros, Police Chief Steve Mazzie, Retired Teacher Richard Liston, and School Committee Chair Tom Abruzzese.

Missing from the meeting Monday was parent Fernanda Rocha.

Already, the MASC and School Committee have run focus groups of parents, educators and residents. Those groups were very diverse, and encompassed people from all over the city. The minutes of those meetings will be presented to the Search Committee to be used when prioritizing candidates.

Koocher said it will be the job of the Search Committee to narrow down the field of candidates. They can narrow it down to anywhere from three to six candidates – typically.

He said when they get all of the applications in, they will sift through them and do an initial vetting. Of those, they will present the Search Committee with all of the resumes and a document ranking the applicants according to the view of the MASC.

“That’s a document some Search Committee members look at and some do not,” he said.

He also said the Search Committee might be one of the best recruiting tools for the position as well, noting that anyone who they encourage to apply be referred to the MASC and that no promises be made.

The remainder of the meeting was focused on what Search Committee members wanted to see from the process, the job description, and the new candidates.

Coach Pierre said he wanted to make sure candidates knew that Everett was an urban district, and that the diversity now here be reflected in the applicant pool.

“Everett has changed drastically demographically,” he said. “We need to talk about that and about the well-being of the students. We need to make sure a candidate is ready to address the social-emotional needs of the students in the buildings.

 “I think that’s important. We have to get someone that understands Everett the way we do,” he continued.

There was some discussion of a report in a local newsletter saying the Search Committee was already leaning to a certain candidate, which drew a lot of laughter from the group as they had not even met yet when the report came out. Koocher warned that such accounts can be published by the press even if they aren’t true, and members of the Committee shouldn’t put much stock in reports from those kinds of newsletters.

Martin-Long said she wanted to make sure a candidate stays for a long period of time, and that point resonated with many in the room.

“I think it’s going to be very critical that we talk about long-term planning,” she said. “We are looking for different things to happen with the education system and they cannot happen in two years. It’s like the four-year mayoral term. We got that so there can be long-term planning. We can’t have someone come in with a five-year plan and leave in two years. We have several areas we are kind of weak in.”

Koocher said it should be a destination job, but there are things that the Search Committee cannot ask during the interviews – which he noted would come in executive session to protect the confidentiality of those applying.

“You have the right to expect this could be a destination superintendent,” he said. “You have the right to expect them to come and stay. You do not have the right to ask them how long they have until retirement…You can look them in the eye and ask them if they’ll be here in five years.”

A lot of the time, he said, the Search Committee needs to look in the eyes of the candidates and ask hard questions, reading them and their reactions.

“Your job will be to smoke them out and figure it out and we’ll help you,” he said.

The Search Committee meetings are open to the public, and will likely be held in school buildings around the city. The next meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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