The Watertown School Committee decided to use the same search firm that they used the last time the town sought a new superintendent.
After interviewing three firms, the School Committee members agreed on using the Massachusetts Association of School Committees as the consultant in the superintendent search.
This was also the firm Watertown used when they promoted Jean Fitzgerald from interim superintendent to permanent superintendent in 2012. She retired in October after 4.5 years as superintendent, and following a tumultuous summer when a group of parents called for a vote of no confidence in her by the School Committee.
Along with MASC, the School Committee also heard from representatives from the New England School Development Council and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.
Town Council President and School Committee member Mark Sideris said he knows MASC Executive Director Glenn Koocher, who will lead the search, because he deals with him frequently as the head of the group that assists School Committees.
“Glenn and his staff are available constantly,” Sideris said. “With Glenn, we have worked with him and he will be a partner with the district.”
School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer said Koocher also knows what it is like to be a School Committee member because he served as one in Cambridge.
“He’s here now, he will be here during the search and he will be here after,” Hsu-Balzer said. “He knows the district and he knows what parents are looking for and what the School Committee is like.”
While she supports hiring MASC, School Committee member Candace Miller said she liked some of the aspects of the presentations from the other firms. HYA would provide a computer interface only accessible by Watertown officials, and both other firms mentioned having places for parents to give input about what they want from a superintendent online.
Also, they spoke about making it more convenient for parents to participate, and not rely solely on community forums.
“I feel Glenn and his team will be responsive to those ideas,” Miller said.
The committee asked Interim Superintendent John Brackett his opinion on the firms. He said he believed all three firms would do a good job. He added it is important for the School Committee to feel comfortable with the person leading the search.
“The level of comfort you have with the person that will be here, not the firm, to work with the School Committee and do you have confidence they will responsive to the School Committee as you work through the process.”
The issue of having a nationwide search also came up. HYA does searches across the country, and has offices in New Jersey, Illinois and California. NESDEC does not have offices outside the region, but is affiliated with other School Development Councils across the country.
Koocher said that MASC is part of the National Affiliation of School Superintendent Searchers, so he will have access to people across the country.
“We talk about problem candidates, who to look out for, and do reference checks,” Koocher said. “The difference from a local and a national search is a national search puts an ad in EdWeek.”
If someone wants to come to Massachusetts, they will already be looking at ads in the area, Koocher said, and he said they often don’t stay very long.
In terms of Watertown’s prospects of finding a quality superintendent, Koocher was optimistic.
“This is a good district, a good place, a desirable location,” Koocher said. “I have every expectation that you should expect good candidates to come forward.”
Watertown has the advantages of being a suburban district but close to Boston and has a good quality of life, Koocher said.
“And you have pride in your community,” Koocher said. “Watertown people are very proud of being from Watertown. That isn’t the case everywhere.”
MASC also offered the lowest price.
“This is not a bargain basement search,” Koocher said. “You have been paying dues since 1947.”