Here is my longer summary of the 4 hour meeting from Tuesday night (as I described briefly in the prior post).
The meeting started with a two-hour meeting with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (the search firm hired to assist with the superintendent search). Two men from HYA presented considerable information about the search process, including time line, potential questions for candidates, and strategies for gathering feedback. This is clearly a very experienced firm (they handled the Newton superintendent search last year), and I was extremely impressed with the amount of information they provided. I encourage people to watch the meeting when they can (it is already being shown on ACTV), but here is a brief summary of the steps:
First, HYA will be in Amherst on October 27th and 28th to meet with various stakeholder groups (e.g., principals, teachers, PGO and School Council members, town government officials, etc.) and individually with each SC member, and to hold a public forum. The goal of this visit is to get information from our community about what we are looking for in terms of characteristics important in a new leader. They will also create a survey that people can complete on line describing such characteristics. This strikes me as really helpful in terms of gathering information from many community members to guide what they are looking for in terms of recruiting a superintendent.
Second, they have recommended that a search committee be created, and the Regional SC approved this idea at the meeting. This committee will consist (per their recommendation) of 8 members: 3 SC members (one chosen by the Pelham SC, one by the Amherst SC, one by the Regional SC), 2 teachers/staff/administrators (1 elementary, one MS/HS), 2 parents (1 elementary, 1 MS/HS), and a town government official. The MS/HS parents and town government officials could be from any of the towns, whereas the elementary parents need to be in either Amherst or Pelham (since the superintendent doesn't supervise the Leverett and Shutesbury elementary schools). This search committee will have a pretty limited role - narrowing the 5 semi-finalists selected by the search firm (based on their belief about who would best fit our needs) to 3 finalists (e.g., eliminating, following interviews, the two candidates that are a less good fit). The SC would then meet with all 3 finalists in public, and ultimately choose the person who was the best fit from these. Information on submitting your name for consideration for inclusion will be posted on the ARPS website soon -- and I encourage all interested parents/teachers/government officials to apply (the SC members chosen to serve on this search committee with chose the specific people for this committee from those who submit their names).
Third, the Search Committee will meet in early January for 2 days to conduct the interviews with the five semi-finalists, and to narrow that down to 3 finalists. The SC will then meet with the three finalists in public (and give them tours, set up meetings with teachers/parents/staff/community members) in mid-January, with the goal of finalizing the selection by January 20th or so.
I am now the only person on the Regional SC or Amherst SC who participated in the last search to hire Dr. Rodriguez (and for the record, I voted for Dr. David Sklarz in that vote), and it is very interesting to me that this search differs so much from the search we did two years ago. One key difference is that last time the SC met in executive session with all 8 semi-finalists (it appears this is certainly illegal to do now, and may well have been illegal to do at the time). Another key difference is that the SC last time reviewed all the applications, and then chose the 8 semi-finalists, whereas now, the search firm is doing the work of narrowing the pool. This strikes me as frankly a very good idea, since this search firm actually had considerable expertise in finding good superintendents and presumably they know what they are looking for.
Next, we turned to the regular Regional School Committee meeting. This meeting started with public comment from several parents and community members: Michael DeChiara (head of Shutesbury SC) opposed the idea of the search firm narrowing the list of semi-finalists to 5, Julia Rueschemeyer presented a petition signed by 97 parents/community members supporting a fair and open superintendent search process for internal and external candidates, Michael Aronson presented a list of qualifications required by the Granby SC in their superintendent search, and Marylou Theilman (former Regional SC chair) supported the use of a fair and open superintendent search in terms of the affirmative action policy and the six-figure salary.
Superintendent Maria Geryk then provided her update on various upcoming events in the district. I'd particularly like to point out the math survey, which families of current students are invited to fill out a brief survey as part of the comprehensive K-12 Math Review (go to ARPS.org, and you will see the link under latest news). Parents are asked to complete the survey by Wednesday, October 27, so please try to make time to do so. They are still working on a date for Andrew Chen to visit Amherst and present his findings, so stay tuned for that -- probably November.
We then turned to new business. This included a brief re-vote of last year's budget (based on the change in how some things are calculated, NOT a change in the overall number), a discussion of school committee norms (including trying not to introduce surprise motions and trying to treat all members with respect), and an update on the transition to the new law firm selected for special education (Amherst and Regional SCs have voted to select a new law firm but Pelham has not done so yet). There was also a discussion regarding budget priorities (largely to avoid having the administrators created budgets that the SC then rejected, as happened last year with the proposal from Mark Jackson to require 3 study halls in the HS), and a discussion of district goals (which should be presented and voted on in the near future). The Regional SC prioritized implementing the recommendations from the special education report, improving teaching effectiveness/instruction/evaluation, and reducing the achievement gap (though Steve noted that really should be raising achievement for all kids, not just reducing the gap). More discussion of these district goals will follow at the next Regional SC meeting, which is next THURSDAY, October 21st.
We then had a few brief updates from various subcommittees, including the policy subcommittee (policies will be presented soon for voting) and the budget subcommittee (a line item budget is being created).
Finally, we had a brief discussion about items for upcoming meetings, which requests to send our ranked list of items to Rick for potential inclusion at a subsequent meeting.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.