By Sharon Beloin-Saavedra | Board of Education President at March 16, 2012 | 8:30 am | Print
So much has already been written about the search for New Britain’s next Superintendent of Schools. Everyone has an opinion – their own perspective on the process and the outcome. It is a ritual this community goes through every time the hiring of a new superintendent occurs. From the non renewal of Dr. Gustin to the hiring and buy out of Dr. Sequiera to the extended search that ultimately concluded with the hiring of Dr. Kurtz – the New Britain community is completely vested in the outcome. Reponses range from the intellectual to the emotional to the ideological. What is important to remember is that no one person’s opinion is more important than the next….however, people need to trust that those of us who interacted with the candidates through the interview process and the public forums were able to gain insight beyond what appears on the written page. If all one assumes about another person is generated from the news media, I shudder to think of how my service to the community will be remembered.
Three distinct panels interviewed our seven semi finalists – the Board of Education; the Parent/Community panel (10 parents/ a faculty member from CCSU and a NBHS graduate); and the Internal Stakeholders’ panel (teachers/administrators/para/OT). All three panels, independent of one another, came to the same conclusion regarding who should move forward in the process as our finalists. The community was invited to meet the finalists during two events – an informal Meet and Greet session – and a formal question and answer session. The public was then asked to fill out candidate impression forms listing what they believed were each of the finalists’ strengths and weaknesses. This feedback was taken into consideration during the Board’s final deliberations.
At the end of the two public events with our finalists, I was approached by many community members and interview panelists who told me how appreciative they were for such an inclusive and open process. For the first time our community felt included in this most important decision. From the development of the profile of what New Britain wants and needs in our next superintendent (Oct. 2011) to the interviews (Feb. 2012) they all felt they had a voice – a seat at the table.
Then came dark Wednesday….the day an article was “discovered” and circulated regarding one of our finalist’s school district. Funny thing about google…anyone and everyone has access…no secret finding here. I think the angst that arose was the lack of a unified Board response to the article. The Board of Education was aware of news reports regarding residency enforcement issues in one of our candidate’s school district back in 2009. Some people had emotional and ideological responses to it. As the President of the Board, I did not have the luxury of indulging myself with emotion or ideology – I had to conduct a professional and legal job interview based on a proven track record of student achievement, urban experience and other criteria spelled out in our profile.
For the record, New Britain also enforces residency requirements for our students and we have a staff member who actively investigates allegations of residency violations. In our state we have border issues between Urban – Suburban – Rural communities. I am sure readers will remember the Bridgeport mother who was arrested for “stealing” an education for her son by sending him to a school in Norwalk.
The public should not misunderstand the Board’s vote on the hiring of our next superintendent. Although I would have preferred a unanimous vote out of the starting gate – we will be a united front as this process moves forward. The initial vote cast by Board members demonstrated how competitive this process was and how strong the pool of candidates were.
The search process continues later this month when a four person Board member team heads to Del Rio Texas for a site visit. We will report publicly on our findings at the April 2, 2012 Board of Education meeting.
Please have trust and confidence in us to perform our due diligence. This is what we were elected to do.