Thursday, September 16, 2021

How does this work? On the Worcester superintendent search

Tomorrow afternoon, the Ad-Hoc Search Committee for the Next Superintendent--which I'm going to call the superintendent search committee--meets for the first time. You can find the agenda, including the Zoom link, here. I thought I'd take a bit today to outline what we know so far.

Who hires a superintendent? The school committee of a district hires the superintendent. It's one of the four core responsibilities of school committees laid out in MGL Ch. 71, sec. 71

The school committee in each city and town and each regional school district shall have the power to select and to terminate the superintendent, shall review and approve budgets for public education in the district, and shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards established by the board of education. 

Who is on the search committee? The School Committee members of the search committee are Molly McCullough, who has been appointed as chair; Dianna Biancheria; and me. The Mayor, who has the authority under the city charter to appoint subcommittees of the Worcester School Committee, said he was appointing the three longest-serving members of the Worcester School Committee who are also running for re-election. 

Why only three? There are of course four of us running for re-election, including Laura Clancey; the search committee needs to be less than a quorum of the full committee, though, lest it operate and make decisions as a committee of the whole.

Is this going to be the full search committee? No. The Mayor has outlined a process that will appoint further members of the district and the public for the search process. That will happen later on, as the full search committee has particular responsibilities (see more below!).

Does this committee meet in public? Yes, as the search committee, both as a subcommittee of the Worcester School Committee and as an ad-hoc committee reporting back to the full committee on something under its purview, is subject to the Open Meeting Law.
HOWEVER, the full constituted search committee will be conducting, as its job, the first round screening interviews of semi-finalists for the position of superintendent. Under MGL Chapter 30A, sec. 21, subsection 8, first round screening interviews may--and I assume here they will--be conducted in executive session. Those are not public.

What is the search committee doing right now? The first job the search committee has been assigned is to report back to the full committee for our next meeting--next Thursday the 23rd--with an RFP for a search firm for a national search and a timeline. Miss Biancheria also wants to define the word "national."

What's an RFP? An RFP is a Request for Proposals, which is how the city (of which the school system in this case operates as a department of) asks for submissions for a purchase the district intends to make. I won't go into huge detail here on municipal purchasing, but there is a strict process under which purchases are made by the city, particularly if they hit particular expense levels. 
In this case, the RFP will spell out exactly what the search committee is looking for from a search firm to work with the school committee on the superintendent search. 

And what's this about a timeline? The new superintendent will need to be ready to go on July 1, 2022. Ideally, new superintendents are appointed earlier in the spring, so there is a transition between superintendents, and the incoming superintendent is part of developing the next year's budget (that they will manage), the summer work (that they will oversee), and the next year's planning (that they will direct). Thus the clock is ticking on making sure we get this moving. 

So which school committee is appointing the new superintendent? The school committee that begins serving in January 2022, which will be elected November 2, will appoint the new superintendent. 
The work that will happen between now and the end of the year, though, will be outlining position descriptions and so forth, which will draw on the knowledge of the current committee. But it will be the next committee, which will have at least two new members, that will appoint the next superintendent. 

What are you/we looking for in a new superintendent? That's what gets decided next and where the community comes in! Part of the RFP will be laying out what we expect the search firm to do, and some of that is gathering community feedback! 
I'm not at this point, beyond what I said at our last meeting, going to lay out more about what I am looking for; right now, I want to push hard on making sure that we hear from as much of the community--and not just the usual suspects!--as possible. That, obviously, is going to have a real impact on what the position description that we decide on looks like. 

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