The Schenectady school board on Wednesday night met in closed session for the fifth time in less than a month to screen candidates for the interim superintendent position, but officials on Thursday could not offer an expected timeline for filling the role.
Finding an interim superintendent as a bridge to initiating a new search for a permanent superintendent, though, is just the start of a long hiring to-do list facing the Schenectady school board.
The board also has to hire a deputy superintendent and district directors of human resources, business and finance, and planning and accountability. The three director positions are based in the district’s central office, report directly to the superintendent and oversee departments that manage vast portions of district operations.
With interim Superintendent Aaron Bochniak scheduled to depart the district at the end of August, the board faces a hiring crunch of top officials ahead of next school year, when the district plans to reopen all school buildings to in-person instruction for all students and begin investing tens of millions of dollars in new state and federal aid.
The school board is focused on filling the interim superintendent vacancy and met in closed session Wednesday night to review candidates for that position. After failing to reach an agreement with the board’s sole finalist in a yearlong superintendent search, the board in April effectively set aside restarting its search for a permanent superintendent until after a pair of new board members join the board next month. While board members briefly discussed what a new search could look like, they never reached a consensus about how to move forward and have instead focused on the interim position.
The district also has to fill a majority of its executive leadership team positions, many of which have been filled by people working in interim or acting roles throughout the past year.
The still-to-fill positions include the district director of business and finance, who oversees the district’s over $200 million budget and the operations of district facilities. The business director job posting, which sets a June 20 application deadline, notes the district “is in a unique financial position due to COVID-19 relief funding,” an indication of the importance of the position in the coming years.
“The district is poised to receive $70 million in federal aid over the next five years,” according to the job posting.
The district director of human resources, another key position that reports directly to the superintendent, manages district hiring and new staff orientation, serves as a liaison for staff concerns and questions, and works to resolve staff pay issues, among other responsibilities. The job posting indicates applications for the position will be accepted through June 20.
The district director of planning and accountability, the position Bochniak held before taking over as interim superintendent, had been filled on an interim basis by Sara Schneller, who is leaving the district for an administrator position in Shenendehowa. The now-open position manages efforts to track student data, oversees district technology and is responsible for state and federal reporting requirements. The district is accepting applications through June 13.
The district also needs to fill its open deputy superintendent position, which the board recently established by reclassifying what had been labeled assistant to the superintendent and was held by longtime district administrator Patty Paser. The deputy superintendent position, which also carries a June 13 application deadline, will help the superintendent manage all district operations. The deputy will fill various roles, including representing the district at public events, filling in for the superintendent in the event of an absence and advising the superintendent on education trends and changes to laws, rules and regulations. The district has also posted openings for a handful of assistant director positions, as well as numerous other openings throughout the district.
District spokesperson Karen Corona on Thursday said search committees have been established to fill the administrative positions and were in the process of screening candidates.
As for the interim superintendent position, the school board has held five special meetings since May 12 for the purpose of convening into closed session to screen candidates for the interim position. Capital Region BOCES District Superintendent Anita Murphy, who coordinated the board’s failed superintendent search over the past year, is facilitating the search for an interim leader. Murphy on Thursday said in an email that there was no update and “the board is still working on this.”
“The process for finding an interim superintendent typically involves talking to numerous people in the field who are interested in this work,” Murphy said in a response to questions about the search. “I’ve been working with the board following this process. At this time there isn’t a timeline on a decision.”
Board President John Foley on Thursday would not answer questions about how many candidates had been interviewed or provide details on the board’s expected timeline for filling the position.
“Nothing new to report at this time,” he said when asked for an update on the search.