Interviews of finalists start tonight

NASHUA – The public will be able to sit in the audience and watch tonight as the first two superintendent finalists go before the Board of Education for their interviews.

Monday night, the board chose to hold its interviews with the four superintendent finalists in public.

The first two interviews are scheduled for tonight, the first at 5 and another at 7. The final two interviews will be Wednesday night at the same times

The interviews will be at the school district offices at 141 Ledge St., but may be moved next door to Ledge Street Elementary School if space becomes an issue.

The interviews will be taped but will not be aired live. Board President Tom Vaughan said the interviews would be aired at a later date on Channel 99.

The board debated whether to hold the interviews in public at a meeting Monday night.

Board member Charlie Katsohis, chairman of the superintendent search committee, initially said he would prefer the meetings be closed. His concern was that the finalists going last would have an advantage, knowing what questions were going to be asked.

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Monday, Katsohis changed his mind, voting with nearly every other member of the board to hold the interviews in public.

Board member Rick Dowd said he didn’t see any particular advantage for some of the finalists knowing the questions in advance.

“These types of questions are pretty much stock questions that are asked in every superintendent interview,” Dowd said.

Dowd added that the only way they would know the questions is if they came to the interviews Tuesday night.

Board member Steve Haas was the only member to vote to keep the interviews private. State law gives public bodies the opportunity to discuss “the hiring of any person as a public employee” behind closed doors.

Haas argued that the board should take advantage of that exemption in this instance.

“I think nonpublic would be a more free and open dialogue between the candidates and the board,” he said.

The four superintendent 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 2002-03.

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

Later Monday night, the board went behind closed doors to select the questions it wanted to ask the finalists during the interviews. The board will ask nine “core questions,” followed by nine follow up questions.

The finalists will also have the opportunity to introduce themselves and ask questions of the board. Each interview is expected to last 90 minutes.

The next superintendent will replace Christopher Hottel, who will leave in July to take over as the North Andover, Mass., superintendent. Hottel’s interview with the North Andover School Committee was public and televised live.

In addition to the interviews this week, the finalists will tour the city Thursday, meeting with teachers, administrators and students.

There is a public forum scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Nashua High School South media center. The public will have an opportunity at that point to ask questions.

Monday night, the board also discussed plans to make site visits to the home districts of the finalists and move forward with criminal and financial background checks.

During the last superintendent search in 2005, the board held its interviews with the finalists behind closed doors and the names of finalists were not released.

The board has already established a salary range of $135,000 to $150,000. A decision on the next superintendent is expected by May 26.