Schenectady County

Schenectady school district starts hunt for leader

The search for a new Schenectady school superintendent began quietly Tuesday, with just a few reside

The search for a new Schenectady school superintendent began quietly Tuesday, with just a few residents offering ideas.

The first proposal: clone Superintendent John Yagielski.

Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy jokingly suggested cloning, and school board members said they wished they could simply keep their interim superintendent.

But he intends to go back to retirement, so the board moved ahead with the first of seven public forums to learn what qualities they should look for in their next leader.

The two residents who showed up for the forum said they want the next superintendent to continue and expand upon Yagielski’s policy of holding community meetings.

“I’d like them to know about the community, go to community meetings, getting to know the community,” said resident Olivia Adams. “Just a friendly person who really gets to know the children and the parents and their needs.”

Adams and resident Deborah Rembert also said the new superintendent should get staff and students to openly report problems before they become crises.

“Someone more hands-on, really getting interested in the dynamics of what’s happening in the classrooms, so the superintendent learns about problems,” Rembert said.

She added that the district needs to be far more empathetic and suggested that hiring an empathetic leader would be a good start.

Capital Region BOCES Superintendent Charles Dedrick, who is running the search, said that could work. “If the superintendent leads by showing certain qualities, by being empathetic, the principals will, too,” he said.

He warned that the superintendent can’t be expected to know the day-to-day problems of 10,000 students. But Rembert said the superintendent could create a culture in which the staff are expected to know their students.

“I know he can’t be everywhere, but his staff can be more sharper, more caring,” she said.

Although the meeting was sparsely attended, 20 residents have already filled out a survey posted on the district’s website, Dedrick said.

“That’s really a good start,” he said, adding that the online survey tends to reduce the number of residents who attend public forums.

“But the fact that no one is here, after the numbers that were coming out a year and a half ago to tell the board what was going on, to me this is a real good indication that this board is on the right track,” he said.

The district will hold five more sessions:

• Thursday, Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Fulton Early Childhood Education Center, 408 Eleanor St.

• Thursday, Nov. 3, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Carver Community Center, 700 Craig St.

• Tuesday, Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Schenectady High School, 1445 The Plaza.

• Tuesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Price Chopper Community Room, 1639 Eastern Parkway.

• Wednesday, Nov. 9, time and place to be announced.

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