Schenectady

Schenectady schools eye May-July transition for new superintendent

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Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — City School District leaders likely won’t name a permanent superintendent until next calendar year, with the district’s search consultant now eyeing a May-to-July transition for a new district leader.

Earlier timelines of the search process had envisioned a transition during the winter, with an appointment being announced as early as November, but at Wednesday’s board meeting Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent Anita Murphy said it was better to give the incoming leader a chance to come in after a new district budget was adopted.

With the district facing enormous budget challenges and uncertainty over the coming months and perhaps years, Murphy, who is leading the district’s search, said it would be too much to ask an incoming superintendent to take over just as the district was finalizing a budget proposal for next school year.

“I thought it was really important to give a new superintendent a clean start, so they are not walking in the door trying to create a budget without any knowledge of the district,” Murphy said during an update at Wednesday’s virtual meeting.

The district has been without a permanent leader since former Superintendent Larry Spring resigned abruptly in March, just weeks into pandemic-related school closures, under what was later reported to be a cloud of sexual harassment accusations.

Aaron Bochniak, who had been working as a top central office official in the district, has served as interim superintendent since Spring’s departure, steering the district through tumultuous times. With the threat of massive state aid cuts hanging over the district as the year ticks by, Bochniak has overseen a major financial retrenchment aimed at bracing the district for a state funding shortfall that could run as high as $28 million. The district laid off more than 400 teachers, administrators and support staff in the first weeks of the school year, layoffs that some in the community have criticized as premature and harmful to students. Meanwhile, the district has also leaned heavily on remote education, including for all secondary students, working to overcome problems with student access to computers and internet.

Now the school board, including two newly elected members, is looking for a superintendent to step in to take charge of the district as it continues to face enormous financial and academic challenges. School board and community members as well as district teachers and staff have called for a new superintendent with leadership experience in a high-need, urban district who can rebuild trust with families and employees, while working to address major student needs in the city.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Murphy noted the district was in a “precarious situation,” referring to its budget challenges, and said it was important for the board to have sufficient time to make a decision. She said the board was scheduled to conduct interviews with candidates Nov. 17 and Nov. 19, and a small number of other segments of the community would have a chance to interview candidates in December. The board could continue to interview candidates as needed in January under a new timeline Murphy outlined Wednesday.

“We would hope that by mid-February we would have someone … assuming the board finds there are candidates who are viable,” Murphy said. The board would have to regroup if a final selection does not emerge in the coming months.

If the board did make a selection around that time, it would need time to agree to a contract and likely give a new leader 90 days to finish up at a current job, setting the table for a transition around May and June, Murphy said. Under the new timeline, the new superintendent would take full charge of the district in July, the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

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