Superintendent candidate unqualified for post

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dewi January 18, 2014 at 08:07 AM
I appreciate your insight. I too initially assumed (based on previous hires) that a Ph D or Ed D would be required. It's an interesting point. However, IMHO more important than degrees, (which I don't mean to minimize --- but schools, requirements, and interests vary wildly) are the actual skills (and yes, the bar should be set high) required for this very important job. If the candidates possess this collection of diverse skills, regardless of how they acquired them, they deserve a shot at the position.
Allen Nitschelm January 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM
Hi Dewi, I disagree. Obviously, if "Horace Mann" applied for the Superintendent's post and didn't have an advanced degree, we should consider him. But in the real world, we have dozens if not hundreds of employees who have worked hard (and we pay extra money) for them to get these advanced degrees. What signal do we send to them when we minimize the importance of their achievements? I can see not requiring a Ph.D., but even that is a bit sketchy. That might apply if someone had some very unusual (but attractive) career path instead. In the case of this candidate, that exception does not exist. I doubt she had any supervisory experience before (at least its not listed on her resume). The Superintendent has probably 1,000 employees. Other than her current position (and I don't know how many people directly report to her) she lists four teaching positions but only one with a public school, and she taught for only one school year. This individual is simply not qualified for the position for which she applied.
Allen Nitschelm January 20, 2014 at 06:41 AM
Dewi -- Sorry, I left out an important point. Marie Altieri, the AB "insider" candidate, has not even earned a Master's degree. Can you imagine a candidate getting into the final three of a School Superintendent Search for one of the top educational jobs in the state without a Master's degree?
Allen Nitschelm January 20, 2014 at 07:54 AM
I have a third part to this series now posted. See "All Titles are not created equally" at http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/all-titles-are-not-created-equally


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »