Half a dozen community groups will have a say in Schenectady’s superintendent search.
The school board hasn’t selected the groups yet, but they are expected to include teachers, parents, community members and possibly students, board members said Tuesday. The group leaders will select their members.
In January, each group will separately interview all the candidates that make it through a preliminary round of interviews with the board. The interviews will be extensive, with each group spending about 50 minutes with each candidate.
Then each group will report to the school board, which will select the finalists.
The board has hired BOCES to handle the search, and Capital Region district Superintendent Charles Dedrick has already started recruiting. The timeline is tight: applications will be due Nov. 28, and two days later the board will decide which candidates will be called for preliminary interviews. Those will begin Dec. 12, and at the end of the week the board will decide which candidates to cut. The decision will be made as soon as they finish the final interview.
“On the last night, narrow it down. We would stay for as long as it took. While it’s fresh in your memory,” Dedrick said. Only three to five candidates should make the cut, he said.
The community groups will interview those candidates in early January and report to the board on Jan. 18 in a closed-door session. Then the board will choose finalists, interview them, and make a decision by early February.
Board members spent hours hammering out the schedule at a special meeting Tuesday and then edited the brochure, advertisements and application in an effort to find candidates who will make Schenectady better.
“How do we attract candidates with urban experience?” board member Diane Herrmann asked. She suggested the application essay topic involve urban schools, as well as deliberately recruiting experienced superintendents.
Board member Andrew Chestnut suggested describing the city as a “gritty” place.
Board member Gary Farkas added that simply saying “diverse” wasn’t enough. “We’re diverse in more than just race,” he said.
The district’s students hail from dozens of countries, speak many languages, and come from families that range from deeply poor to rich, with varying educational levels.
Board members were clearly worried that they would get candidates who can’t handle that level of diversity.
“It’s really easy to be committed to those kids in the [International Baccalaureate] program, but that’s not what we’re about,” Herrmann said. “We want all children to succeed. We want someone who is committed to the success of all children.”
Board President Cathy Lewis attended the meeting through Skype from Illinois, where her husband’s brother died Saturday.
The board is trying to quickly find a replacement for interim Superintendent John Yagielski, who was hired for a one-year term that ended this summer. For many months, it has been clear that the district would not be ready to begin a search until this fall, and he has said he’s willing to stay for as long as needed — but he’s eager to return to retirement.
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