Board sets process to find new school superintendent

NASHUA – The process and timeline for finding a new superintendent approved Monday night has the Board of Education deciding on a new school district leader by the end of May.

The board has opted to go it alone on the search, not using the assistance of a professional search firm. At a meeting last month, tensions arose among some board members, as the search appeared to be stalling.

Superintendent Christopher Hottel announced in January that he would be leaving July 1 to take over as superintendent of the North Andover, Mass., school district.

The process approved unanimously by the board Monday set out a clear set of benchmarks and dates for the board to pick a new superintendent May 26.

Board members said that alleviated some of their concerns and that it was an indication that the process could now begin moving forward.

“I feel like we’re on the right track now,” board President Tom Vaughan said. “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable about going forward with this process.”

One of the first steps of the process will be a public-input meeting that will be held next Monday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at Nashua High School North.

Board member Charlie Katsohis, chairman of the board’s ad hoc search committee, said the meeting would be an opportunity for members of the public to provide their input as to what qualities they are looking for in a superintendent.

After creating interview questions and coming up with a superintendent profile, the ad hoc committee will be narrowing down all applicants to eight to 10 candidates, who will go through an interview process by April 8.

The deadline for applications to be submitted is March 31. The district has already spent about $3,700 advertising for the position and has received seven applications.

The board will be spending another $500 to send out brochures about the district to school districts in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and southern Maine.

The board has set a salary range of $135,000 to $150,000 for the new superintendent. Hottel is making $150,000 this year.

One of the important issues that still needs to be decided is who will be sitting on the interview committee. Between April 15 and 24, the committee will be interviewing the eight to 10 candidates, and whittling them down the three finalists.
As it stands currently, the 16-member interview committee, facilitated by Associate Superintendent Ed Hendry, would be comprised of:

n One central office representative.
n Two principals, one elementary and one secondary.
n Two representatives from the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
n One representative from city government.
n Three teachers.
n One PTO president/representative.
n One student.
n Four community members.

Ward 9 alderman Jeffrey Cox, liaison to the Board of Education, could also be added to the list, bringing the total members to 16. But the actual people who will fill many of the positions have yet to be determined.

Bob Sherman, president of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, said a notice would be sent out to teachers who want to be on the committee.

Sherman said ideally, one would be picked to represent all levels of education – elementary, middle and high schools.

Sherman said it would also be important that one of the teachers is working in special education and that one of the community members represents the city’s minority population.

Katsohis said the community members would be selected sometime before the end of the month. Anyone interested in serving on the interview committee should contact the superintendent’s office, he said.

Katsohis said the goal is to have the lineup of the interview committee established by the end of March.

Once the interview committee settles on three finalists, they would have to be approved by the Board of Education. There would be criminal and financial background checks of those finalists.

Once approved, the names of those finalists would be made public, an announcement tentatively scheduled for May 11.

From May 11 to 15, members of the ad hoc search committee and others would make site visits to the districts of the finalists.

Board member Jack Kelley, who headed up the search for former superintendent Julia Earl, said he was concerned about whether that would be enough time for the site visits.

He did say that, unlike with during the search for Earl, it is good that the visits will be done while school is still in session.

On May 18, the finalists would be made available for public forums with various groups, including students, school personnel, community members and parents, and city government and business representatives.

Also on May 18, the three finalists would take part in their final interviews with the Board of Education. The format for those interviews hasn’t been determined yet.

Robert Hallowell, a member of the ad hoc search committee, said there has been some discussion about holding parts of the interview in public and other parts behind closed doors.

“There was some concern about information they may want to divulge in the interview that shouldn’t be done in public,” he said.

Sherman said some of the questions that should be asked of the candidates should cover their experience with budgeting and negotiations and how they are going to evaluate staff.

He said another important question is how they will intend on dealing with the growing disparities among schools with regard to socioeconomic status and ethnicity.