Schenectady school district voters made it clear during last month’s election they want a change of direction.
The existing school board should honor their wishes and hold off on appointing a new interim superintendent until the new board takes office July 1.
When the voters speak, listen to them.
At issue is whether the current board should move ahead with appointing a replacement for outgoing interim Superintendent Aaron Bochniak, who is leaving the district over the summer to take a new job elsewhere. (Read our latest story here.)
His departure will leave the district without a chief executive while the new school board conducts a search for a permanent leader.
Those who say the current board should move forward right away with appointing a new interim superintendent say it’s urgent that the district have a leader as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition into the upcoming school year.
Anyone who’s placed in charge of the district will have plenty on his or her plate from Day 1, not only managing the educational mission of the district, which is enough of a challenge, but doing so as students and teachers transition back to a traditional school environment following the past year’s COVID crisis. And given the amount of time the district has taken to find a permanent superintendent — well over a year now — it’s likely the interim superintendent could have a lengthy tenure.
So they have to find the right interim, and they can’t drag their feet because time is of the essence.
So what to do?
It would be unfair to voters, the new school board members and the entire school community if the current board installed an interim superintendent who didn’t reflect the values, experience and vision of the incoming board.
It’s the incoming board that will set the direction of the district for the immediate future.
It’s the incoming board that will have to work with any interim superintendent who gets appointed.
It’s the incoming board that will be held responsible for the decisions that individual makes with regard to new hirings, educational policy and budget allocations during the upcoming school year.
It’s only right and logical that the incoming board have the final say over who gets that job.
The current board has already done much of the legwork to find an interim superintendent, and it would be a waste of their time and energy to ignore those efforts and start the search for a new interim superintendent from scratch on July 1.
So far, the current board has done much of the search in secret. And because of the different philosophies espoused by the outgoing board members compared with the incoming members, the new board members and citizens are right to be trepidatious about who the current board might select if given the chance.
To resolve this issue, the existing board must agree not to appoint a new interim superintendent before July 1. While every day of delay puts the new interim superintendent an extra day behind, and while waiting might cause some potential candidates to look elsewhere for a job, it’s the right decision.
If we were talking about waiting months for the new board to be seated, we might not be having this discussion. But because the new board takes office only in about 10 days, the decision can wait.
In the meantime, the old board must allow the incoming board members, Jamaica Miles and Erica Brockmyer, to actively participate in the current search process, including letting them know where the district in the process, who the candidates might be and what criteria have been used to evaluate candidates so far.
Under the state Open Meetings Law, board members are entitled to exclude the public from certain discussions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are required to.
Unless discussion of a particular topic with nonboard members is specifically prohibited by law, board members may invite nonboard members into their closed-door executive sessions.
Doing this will help smooth the transition to the new board and allow the process for selecting a new interim superintendent to continue moving forward.
It also might allay some of the fears the new board members and others in the community have about the potential candidates for interim superintendent.
The bottom line with any decision by government is what do the voters want.
The voters in Schenectady have made their views clear.
The elected officials have a duty to honor them.