Superintendent search help to be discussed

NASHUA – The board of education will discuss this week whether to hire a firm to help with its superintendent search or whether to go it alone.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board will hear presentations from two firms: the New Hampshire School Boards Association and the New England School Development Council.

On Tuesday, a special meeting is scheduled to discuss which firm to go with or whether the board needs the assistance of a firm at all.

The school board is looking to replace Christopher Hottel, who will leave Nashua to take the superintendent position in North Andover, Mass., in July.

School board President Tom Vaughan said the board is inclined to do the search on its own at this point, but is bringing in firms to see if it would be worth spending the money it would cost.

Ted Comstock, executive director of the New Hampshire School Board Association, said his firm helps with the majority of searches in New Hampshire. Comstock said his firm worked with the Manchester Board of Education on its search for a new superintendent last year.

“Even though we are based here in New Hampshire, we do recruiting that reaches into every corner of the nation,” he said.

One of the issues in the last superintendent search in 2005 was the lack of transparency the board used when it came to naming finalists at the end of the process.

In 2005, the board hired an Illinois-based firm called Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to help with the search to replace Superintendent Joe Giuliano. The search cost $35,000.

In that search, the board didn’t name any finalists and didn’t give community members an opportunity to meet finalists. The board informed the community of its choice, Julia Earl, once the decision had been made to offer her the job.

At the time, some board members said the firm advised them that they would get better-qualified candidates if they kept the names of finalists private.

Comstock said he would advise the board differently. He said an important part of the process is for the board, toward the end of the search process, to name at least two to five finalists.

“We are strong believers in transparency,” he said. “We believe it’s important for the board and the community to know who the finalists are.”

That gives the public an opportunity to know who is being considered, he said. It also gives the finalists a chance to meet members of the community and get to know the district better, he said.

“The person ultimately selected does live in the public eye,” he said.

In Manchester, the school board named three finalists, and members of the community were given a chance to meet them and make recommendations to the school board on which finalist they preferred, he said.

The board will also hear Monday night from a representative from the New England School Development Council. A phone call to the firm, based in Marlborough, Mass., wasn’t returned.

Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Nashua High School North.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the school district administration office at 141 Ledge St.