See the Qualities the School Committee Wants the Interim Superintendent to Have

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Experience, good communicator and someone who learns fast are some of the qualities the School Committee is looking for in an interim superintendent.

Monday night, the School Committee discussed finding a temporary head of schools until a permanent replacement can be found for retiring Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald.

School Committee Vice Chair Kendra Foley said she would like to find someone with experience and is a good leader.

“I do not just want the person to play a role of superintendent, but guide the community through the process of finding a new superintendent,” Foley said.

School Committee Chairman John Portz agreed with the need for experience, because there is always a learning curve when a superintendent comes to a new community. Having someone with finance skills and experience with building projects – as the town looks at renovating or replacing schools – is also a plus, Portz said.

Communication is also on people’s lists of qualities. School Committee member Guido Guidotti said he wants the new head to be in close touch with the School Committee.

“We have gotten into trouble with a real wall between what the superintendent is doing and what the School Committee is doing,” Guidotti said.

Communication is also one of the top issues for School Committee member Candace Miller.

“Putting family and community engagement in front is important,” Miller said. “Not just push out a few messages, the person has to really interact.”

Miller also said she would like the interim superintendent to continue looking at studies the district has done on budget/finance, special education, enrollment and the facilities master plan. In addition, the accreditation report on Watertown High School recently came out.

School Committee member Elizabeth Yusem said she wants to make sure the interim head gets on well with Watertown’s Assistant Superintendent Theresa McGuinness.

Screening Committee

A Screening Committee of administrators, teachers, parents, one student and one School Committee member will look at the resumes that come in from the interim superintendent ad that went out Sept. 21.

The first meeting of the Screening Committee will take place Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. in room 101 of the Phillips School, 30 Common St. in Watertown.

Under a proposed schedule, the Screening Committee will look at resumes in early October, and they will select candidates to interview by Oct. 5. Initial interviews would take place on Oct. 13 and 17, and finalists would be selected on Oct. 17.

Reference checks would take place from Oct. 18-20 and the first interviews would take place on Oct. 18-20. The School Committee would interview the finalists on Oct. 24 and, under the proposal, they would make an appointment the same night.

Miller said she was not comfortable making the decision without having some time to consider the candidates, and recommended having another meeting to appoint the interim superintendent the following day. Portz said that the schedule could change.

Interim Business Services Director

Monday night, the School Committee also interviewed a finalist for interim director of business services. After speaking with the finalist, the School Committee said they were not comfortable making an appointment.

There had been nine applications and six candidates were invited to interview, said Human Resources Director Craig Hardimon. Four came in for interviews and two were chosen to talk to retiring Business Services Director Charles Kellner, who forwarded the finalist to the School Committee.

The School Committee tabled the vote on the appointment of the finalist, but they did not want to close the door on the candidate.

The search process will open up again, but Hardimon said there is a limited number of qualified individuals available for a short-term appointment.

“I will reach out to my colleagues and superintendents to see if there is someone else out there we don’t know about,” Hardimon said. “There is no easy answer.”

Looking for a consultant was brought up as an option, but Hardimon said there are very few out there for schools.

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