Reading, MA — The process for selecting a new superintendent of schools began in earnest on Thursday, October 1, as the School Committee was presented with two finalists to serve as a consultant for the search. Current Superintendent of Schools John Doherty announced to the committee at the May 28 School Committee meeting that he would be resigning when his contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd, along with School Committee Chair Chuck Robinson and Vice-Chair Thomas Wise, prepared a request for qualifications (RFQ) that was responded to by two different consulting agencies. The Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) was represented by Executive Director Glenn Koocher who presented the “full consulting service” which, according to Koocher, would “walk the committee through all steps of the search process.” Koocher emphasized his personal connection with many districts and candidates, sharing that MASC has had a relationship with Reading for over seventy-five years.
Koocher was clear that MASC has extensive experience with open meeting law and “represents school committees, not candidates.” He also indicated that if MASC were chosen as the consultant, they would continue the process if the candidate chosen left the district for up to two years after hire. “If we don’t, we have failed you as a member service organization,” Koocher stated.
Executive Director Arthur Bettencourt from the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) gave a presentation that emphasized that his firm is regionally-based and has a national recruiting network. He gave specific and detailed answers regarding the process of developing information in community focus groups. Bettencourt impressed committee members with the idea that NESDEC would develop a “successful candidate” profile that could be posted on the Reading Public Schools website as well as with national recruiting forums. “Regardless of [which firm] you choose, we hope you get the right person for your district,” Bettencourt concluded.
Beginning discussion, School Committee member Shawn Brandt stated, “We’d be in good hands with either firm.” Member Carla Nazzaro agreed, “[Either] would bring good results for us.”
Wise, Gaffen, and member John Parks all indicated that while they were more impressed with the written materials submitted by MASC, Gaffen specifically noted that she found the sample brochure about the school district that was in MASC’s written materials “impressive” . They also believed that NESDEC’s presentation was more compelling and detailed, with Wise mentioneing that the candidate profile option “speaks to me.”
Brandt, Nazzaro, and Gaffen all also commented on the potential broader reach of NESDEC’s recruitment efforts as notable as well. “[NESDEC’s] regional reach differentiated them.” Brandt indicated. Robinson pointed out his belief that NESDEC would be more “nimble” as the search moved forward.
Dowd advised the committee that a recommendation would be made based on a series of factors including written materials, reference checks, and completeness of the RFQ. The live presentation would only be “one of a group of criteria” used to determine a finalist. All six members indicated that they thought the NESDEC presentation was the better of the two. Dowd will be checking references and will collaborate with Robinson and Wise to make a recommendation by next week. The committee intends to meet at 6:00pm next Wednesday to vote on the recommendation and choose a consultant.
Doherty also updated the committee on the Birch Meadow Elementary School modular timeline, indicating that all Birch Meadow students would have a full remote school day on Friday, October 9 and that the professional development days originally scheduled for that day and for May 28 would be moved to October 15 and 16, allowing time for classrooms to be moved and set up in time for hybrid model students to arrive at school on October 19. Doherty stressed that this change in schedule was only for Birch Meadow.
Doherty also shared an updated job description for the Human Resources Director with a new title and expanded responsibilities. These changes, along with an increased salary, have been made with the hope of attracting candidates to the role.
The School Committee adjourned at 9:10 pm.