Mamaroneck Schools Search for New Superintendent
by Joan R. Simon
(January 26, 2005) The search for a new superintendent of schools in Mamaroneck was off and running last week with some 200 people involved in the initial stage of the process. Consultant Jacqueline Roy is handling the search to replace Dr. Sherry King, who will be leaving at the end of the school year. (See: Two Top Leaders of Mamaroneck School District Retiring). Ms. Roy met with 25 groups over a period of two and a half days and laid out the steps to be followed, including: focus group meetings, surveys, advertisements and interviews.
Ms. Roy has already met with teachers, support staff, union representatives, high school students, PTA leaders, Latino parents, and officials from the three municipalities. Community groups were consulted as well, including the Summit, the League of Women Voters, R.A.D.A.R., the Mamaroneck School Foundation, the Committee for the Selection of School Board Candidates, and the Hispanic Resource Center to name a few. Anyone who was not part of a specific group was welcome at two open sessions.
Participants were asked three questions. 1) How would you characterize Mamaroneck School District to help someone interested in the job understand the school community? 2) What are the issues – and problems – in the district that a new superintendent will be facing. 3) What qualities are important in a new superintendent?
From these sessions, Ms. Roy has put together a report for the Mamaroneck School Board that ultimately is responsible for choosing the next superintendent. The report will be the basis for a brochure to be given to candidates applying for the job and will describe the district and outline the challenges and criteria for a new superintendent. The brochure will be ready “in the next couple of weeks,” according to Ms. Roy, and the information will be posted on the school district website: www.mamkschools.org
The Community Weighs In
What kind of feedback did Ms. Roy get? Some of the issues mentioned at the meetings were: the challenge of educating a student population that is diverse in language, cultural backgrounds, and income; continuing the progress on curriculum coherence into the high school; the need to balance creativity in the elementary school with preparation for standardized testing; concern about children who are not at the top or the bottom academically and might “fall through the cracks”; a greater effort to involve the community with the schools; and continuing the work on mainstreaming special education students.
Some of the desirable characteristics suggested for the next superintendent were: strong leadership; a clear vision; good communication and listening skills; experience with numbers and the business side of education, as well as familiarity with state testing mandates; and, most of all, someone who can come up to speed fast.
Ads are currently running in the Sunday New York Times as well as in educational journals and publications. Applications are due by March 14, when Ms. Roy will winnow down the candidates and present the most promising prospects to the school board, who will conduct interviews with the top contenders.
Will there be a committee of key stakeholders (i.e., teachers, parents, etc.) to interview the candidates, a process that has been used in the past when top administrative positions were being filled? According to Ms. Roy, there probably will not be such a committee because of the need for confidentiality and the limited applicant pool. “The major difference [today] is the candidate pool. There are so many superintendent vacancies and fewer candidates. What we’re trying to do is to encourage and entice candidates who are sitting superintendents and for them there’s a high risk in throwing their hats into the ring.”
Ms. Roy left open the possibility that the community might be brought in at the end of the process. “When we get down to a few candidates, we may go a different route. What we need to do is say the process is going to be totally confidential until we get to a stage where we need to engage the community,” she said.
What if the district doesn’t find a candidate before Dr. King leaves this summer? School Board president Celia Felsher said we “would go to an interim superintendent. There’s a body of retired superintendents who perform that role. And then you would conduct another search starting in the fall.”
She added, “In all honesty we don’t expect that to happen.
We’ve been told by our consultant that there isn’t any reason
we shouldn’t have a number of desirable candidates to choose from
given the national reputation of the school district. This would be one
of the more desirable superintendent’s positions.”