3 old city hands, 1 newbie among board's finalists

NASHUA – An in-house candidate, two former Nashua School District employees and a superintendent from New York state make up the group of finalists for the city’s schools chief job.

Members of the Board of Education announced the finalists for the superintendent position at Nashua High School South on Friday afternoon. The finalists are:

Brian Cochrane, director of accountability and assessment for the Nashua School District. Cochrane, who lives in Goffstown, has worked in Nashua for two years. He worked for Southern New Hampshire University before that.

Mark Conrad, chief financial officer for the Bedford School District. Conrad lives in Nashua and worked as the business administrator for 10 years before leaving in 2006.

Kathleen Murphy, director of the division instruction for the New Hampshire Department of Education. Murphy previously worked as superintendent of the Newmarket School District. She also worked as an instructional supervisor for the Nashua School District from 2002 to 2003.

Robert Reidy, superintendent of the Mahopac (N.Y.) Central School District, a 5,000-student district located 50 miles north of New York City.

The finalists were not present at the announcement. The school district provides copies of the finalists’ resumes and the questionnaires they had filled out when they applied.

Board of Education member Charlie Katsohis, chairman of the board’s search committee, said 16 people applied for the position.

The board narrowed down the applicants to the top 10, at which point the process was handed over to a 16-member interview committee. The committee was made up of district and community members.

Katsohis said the process now falls back into the hands of the school board.

“I’m anxious to meet them,” he said, of the finalists.

Three of the four finalists have experience working in Nashua, but Katsohis said that from his perspective, “They’re all coming in at the same equal value.”

A series of public forums will be held Monday, May 18, when district staff and the public will have an opportunity to meet the finalists and ask them questions.

The schedule for the forums will be announced in two weeks.

The next superintendent will replace Christopher Hottel, who will be taking over as superintendent in North Andover, Mass., in July.

The board has set a date of May 26 to decide on the next superintendent, and has set a salary range of $135,000 to $150,000 for the position.

The questions used by the interview committee were formulated by using input gathered from a community survey. Tom Vaughan, president of the board, said more than 400 people responded to the survey.

“We were able to forge a rigorous and community involved process,” Vaughan said.

Robin Peringer, an art teacher at South, was one of the teachers on the interview committee. She said she’s glad she got the chance to represent the city’s teachers in the selection of the next superintendent.

“If any one of these four became the superintendent, I’d be fine,” she said.

Peringer said she is hoping the next superintendent will be able to commit long term to the city.

Robert Sherman, president of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, said he is looking forward to meeting the finalists. One of the important keys for him will be their proposal for administrative structure within the district, he said.

Cochrane said becoming a superintendent has been a career goal for him. Cochrane said he was impressed with the process.

“The interview community was very well informed,” he said. “The questions they put together were well thought out.”

Conrad said he left to work in Bedford because it presented an opportunity for a change. But Conrad said he hopes that this will present a chance to return to Nashua.

“I think the position really reflects a chance to make a difference,” he said.

Reidy was superintendent of SAU 47, which covers Peterborough, Jaffrey and Rindge, from 1980 through 1987.

“Maybe I get points for being in the state for seven years,” he said. Murphy could not be reached Friday for this story.