Choosing a new Superintendent of schools is the most important decision that any school committee can make. The Superintendent is more than just the CEO of the schools. He or she guides the school committee, does most of the hiring and firing, and is the single most important factor for students' education. And since Acton has essentially turned into a town that exists to educate kids, all of the taxpayers, citizens, and voters have a stake in who is selected. If Acton's schools were to deteriorate, we would see test scores fall, a dramatic drop in housing prices, and our high taxes would no longer be worth the investment for an inferior education.
In light of the decision to fully regionalize our schools, the Superintendent will exercise even more power and influence than ever before. Having a firm commitment to transparency and fair dealing is a must. If you were counting on that from our current school committee, you may be sorely disappointed.
Last September, Acton-Boxborough School Superintendent Stephen Mills announced his retirement and a Superintendent Search Committee was quickly formed to hire his replacement. For the last few months, this Committee has interviewed candidates in executive session and just named three finalists for the position. (See http://www.actonforum.com/story/three-finalists-acton-boxborough-superin...). (The school's press release is here: http://actonforum.com/sites/default/files/Press-Release-Superintendent-F...)
For the next 10 days, the three candidates will take turns touring the schools and meeting parents and teachers, and then the full School Committee will conduct public interviews on Saturday, January 25th. After about six hours of interviews (with 15 minutes available for questions from the public) the School Committee will vote for the next Superintendent.
The Superintendent Search Committee has done a very poor job. One of the finalists does not appear to meet what some would say are the minimum requirements for a position of this magnitude, which is a Master's degree and possibly even a doctorate. That a school system as accomplished as Acton-Boxborough's would give serious consideration to Superintendent candidates without a Master's degree or even a doctorate is extremely odd.
Perhaps worse than this is that the requirements posted for Superintendent of the AB schools last year are actually lower than the requirements posted for the same search five years ago. The job as Superintendent has gotten harder with full regionalization, not easier. Why would the educational requirements be lowered so as to not even require a Master's degree, let alone a Ph.D.?
Were the requirements changed to give someone special treatment? Should years of service as a volunteer school committee member and committee chairperson give one an advantage in securing a paid position with a school based on that volunteer relationship with a superintendent and other committee members? Can school committee members who continue to serve as volunteers be unbiased when one of their former colleagues is applying for a position such as this?
In this article (which is part one), we will explore the posted job qualifications for Superintendent in 2013, the qualifications that were posted during the last Acton Superintendent search in 2008-09, and the qualifications required by other superintendent searches in other Massachusetts school districts. For full article on Acton Forum, click here: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/flawed-superintendent-search-process-yields-unqualified-candi...
In part two, we will look back at how this inside candidate was hired by the Acton school system in 2007 after abruptly resigning her volunteer school committee position. For full article (part two) click here: http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/questionable-hiring-clouds-candidate-superintendent
Allen Nitschelm is the Publisher of the Acton Forum.