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Schenectady close to school chief choice

Schenectady close to school chief choice

Finally, the public will get to meet the candidates for Schenectady superintendent.

Finally, the public will get to meet the candidates for Schenectady superintendent.

The school board has narrowed the list to three finalists, all of whom will be announced publicly today. The finalists will each separately face the public for questions before the school board makes its final decision.

Board President Cathy Lewis said the decision may come down to choosing a superintendent who has worked with impoverished students in a small school district, versus one who has worked with a larger school district that has less poverty.

She thinks poverty is the more important experience.

“Rural districts can have just as much poverty and sometimes more than us,” she said. “The concern isn’t really about the size of the school district but the poverty of the school district.”

However, a superintendent from a rural district coming to Schenectady’s 10,000 students would have “a learning curve,” Lewis said. “But hopefully a leader is a leader,” she said, adding more forcefully: “I think a leader can be a leader. You want people who are going to motivate kids. I don’t want them making excuses for kids not succeeding.”

All three finalists will give a presentation to the public on the topic of what they would do in their first 100 days of leading the school district.

The dates for the three presentations are: Tuesday, Jan. 24; Wednesday, Jan. 25; and Tuesday, Jan. 31. They will begin at 6 p.m. and will last roughly an hour. The district has not yet determined which candidate will speak on which day.

Residents will be allowed to submit written questions before each presentation, which will last about 15 minutes. After the presentation, they will be able to directly ask the candidate questions about it for 15 minutes. Then the moderators will read the written questions, which the candidate will answer for about 30 minutes.

Each night will end with the school board interviewing the candidate privately.

Lewis said those interviews will focus on the “areas of concern” that parents, teachers and business groups brought up after interviewing the candidates last week.

While the groups had different concerns for each candidate, in general the teachers focused on the candidates’ involvement with negotiations, Lewis said. The business group evaluated whether any of the candidates could be a “transformational leader” who would significantly improve the district. And parents focused on the candidates’ involvement with parent groups and communication.

On Feb. 1, the school board will meet behind closed doors to discuss the candidates, although they may not make a decision that night. Lewis said she thinks the board may make its decision in February.

Once board members agree on one candidate, they will visit that candidate’s school district for a final check.

“It’s not to dig anything out, it’s to confirm what you’ve pretty much decided,” Lewis said. “If the site visit checks out, then there’d be the process of negotiation.”

The board won’t announce the new superintendent until the basic contract details have been hammered out.

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