Foss: Fix flawed Schenectady superintendent search process

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The Schenectady City School District’s failure to reach a deal with the sole finalist for its open superintendent position is an embarrassing fiasco.

It’s also a chance to do things better.

The district’s search was flawed from the start, lacking openness, public input and genuine community engagement.

What could have been an opportunity to reflect and rebuild became just another secrecy-shrouded process, perpetuating some of the district’s worst and most indefensible habits.

The abrupt departure of former superintendent Larry Spring last March was a bit like ripping off a scab – painful, yet revealing.

And what it revealed was a district beset by a festering slew of problems, in desperate need of reform.

Rather than embrace this opportunity to think and do things differently, the Board of Education went in the opposite direction, narrowing the field of superintendent candidates to a single finalist behind closed doors.

This absence of transparency and public involvement was a grave disservice to the students, teachers and families who live and work in Schenectady, and it met with well-deserved criticism from groups such as the Schenectady NAACP.

All of which might have been forgotten had the board reached a contract agreement with its preselected candidate, Pedro Roman.

But it didn’t.

On the surface, the district’s failure to land a new superintendent is a disaster — a tricky new crisis for school officials to navigate.

Dig deeper, though, and things look different.

What jumps out is how much the district could benefit from a do-over, from resetting a flawed and misguided process.

The district’s secrecy didn’t lead to a good outcome — if anything, it created ill-will in the community, undermining a process in urgent need of buy-in and support from the community.

The board’s errors in judgment ought to be cause for reflection — and for change.

The district should undertake the search it should have undertaken from the beginning, and embark on a more transparent and inclusive process, one that aims to inform the public and involve as many parents and families as possible.

The board tried a secretive search process, and it didn’t work.

Maybe it’s time to emphasize openness and community engagement, and see if it yields a better result.

Maybe, just maybe, they can get it right this time.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss, Schenectady County

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