The New Hyde Park/Garden City Park School Board held a work session last week to discuss the procedure it will adopt during its search for a superintendent.
School board president Patricia Rudd started the discussion with an outline of options for the board regarding the process it will use in the hiring of a new superintendent.
Rudd said, "The first thing the board has to decide is whether or not to hire a search firm or do they want to conduct the search themselves. Secondly, we have to establish a timeline, which is very important; and then they have to develop a profile of the superintendent. This is done by conducting a survey of the board, administrators, teachers, clerical, custodial, teacher's aides, PTAs and the entire New Hyde Park/Garden City Park school district community. This survey could also be put online for the entire community.
"Further, the board has to establish a salary range for the superintendent and a benefits package. Then we have to publish the vacancy. We have to decide whether the search is to go national or tri-state. We will then receive and process the applications and identify the best-qualified candidates. The board must meet and prepare interview procedures and criteria. This must be done whether or not we have a search firm. We still have to get together and decide the procedures during the interviews and who will be present during the interviews.
"We have to do background checks of the finalists. When we finally have the No. 1 candidate we will then extend a contract offer."
Rudd continued, "So now we have to decide whether or not to hire a consultant, a search firm or conduct the search ourselves."
School board vice president Robert Nugent said, "The last search, we did three years ago, we did internally."
Rudd commented, "Yes we did it internally, it was a lot of work and Dr. Calamusa headed up the committee. He reviewed applications and then each of us had a job."
Nugent said of Dr. Frank Calamusa, who was present at the work session, "He knew a lot about the process due to his vast experience and he did most of the work and was very helpful and since we don't have anyone just like him now, I don't think we should conduct the search ourselves."
Rudd said, "I agree, I really don't think we should do the search ourselves."
Trustee Ernest Gentile wanted to know how to obtain potential candidates without using a search firm.
Rudd said, "Well, we put an ad in the paper and from that ad we receive resumes. I included a sample ad in your packets and that size ad, in The New York Times, cost approximately $6,000."
Trustee Annette Giarratani asked if that was the only ad that was placed and Rudd said yes. She said, "I have to say we received wonderful candidates from that single ad. We put the ad in the paper in December and therefore got a jump on everyone else, some of them dropped out when they called and we told them the salary. But, for the most part a lot of them continued on into the process of meeting and screening them."
Trustee Joseph Bongiorno wanted to know how the profile and survey were drafted.
Rudd said, "She said that a sample survey was in their packet. We had to discuss and agree on what was important to include and what it was we were looking for in a candidate. Actually, Dr. Calamusa did most of the work. He looked through the applications. In fact, we all had a chance to look at all of the applications. We rated them, narrowed them down and then had the top ones come in for interviews."
Bongiorno said, "What I am trying to understand, if we do hire a search firm what will they actually do?"
Rudd said, "They do have lists and they reach out to various people that they have contacts."
Bongiorno said, "Do they take our applications; and then what?"
Rudd said, "They look through the applicants and then narrow it down for us and according to the number of applications we then ask them to pick out the top 10 or whatever number you want."
Trustee Joan Romagnoli said, "At the last search, there were about 35 applicants and then Dr. Calamusa narrowed them down."
Dr. Calamusa said, "We went through the applicants and it took many hours to determine who at the end we eliminated. However, no one was notified they were eliminated at that point. Then we had a committee of board members who went through the applicants and rated them from 1 to 5, rather than choose the top three at that time. From that 35 we went to 25 then to 15 and then got it down to the three finalists."
Bongiorno said, "I'm trying to justify in my mind spending the money for a consultant. I have to tell you I am not relying on some outside company, that we are paying a fee, to make a decision for my school district. Ultimately, we are duplicating a lot of the work, because we are the ones that have to make a decision. I am not letting a company make a decision for my school. It's not happening. What you hire them for is to do some of the weeding out, but ultimately we have to sit down and make the same decisions anyway."
Rudd then directed Bongiorno's attention to a proposal from one of the search companies that she included in the packet. She added, "Remember there is a lot in the process. Phone calls, letters, background checks."
Giarratani wanted to know where one of the firms was from and Rudd told her in Illinois. She said, "Do they have a home base in New York?"
Rudd assured her it was a very large company.
Dr. Calamusa said that eventually, the applicants were narrowed down to the Nassau/Suffolk area and most of the people contacted knew about them. He said, "It was, however, the board that made the decision and I just facilitated the process."
Rudd said "There were a lot of sub-committees headed up by the members of the board and even though Dr. Calamusa did the major portion of the work, it was very time-consuming for all of the members of the board."
Trustee Gentile asked if they had to decide this tonight and Rudd said absolutely not.
Trustee Giarratani said, "There are really only three options we have. To do a search in-house, go to an individual or go to a search firm. Out of the three I think we should give credence to more than one firm. Personally, I've gone through this many times. I've done it in-house, with an individual and with a firm. I would also not want to do this nationwide. This is a K-6 district and I personally don't think we have to go beyond New York, maybe the tri-state area."
Giarratani added, "We could also tap into the Department of Educational Services."
She then presented a list of names and a consultant for the board's consideration.
Nugent said, "That adds another dimension because we will first have to interview an individual consultant or a firm prior to even placing the ad and receiving names of candidates."
Rudd agreed and said that later on in the evening the board would be interviewing a consultant.
Gentile said he would be interested in seeing contracts of other superintendents in other districts.
Rudd said she didn't know if that was available, but would look into it.
Rudd said, "In regards to the time line. We received terrific candidates by putting the ad in December."
Bongiorno wanted to know if a consultant would take care of putting the ad in. Rudd explained that the district would pay for the ad, but that the firm would take care of writing and placing the ad."
Rudd said, "A consultant will sit down with the entire board and go through all the details of what they will be doing and they will get feedback from the board as to what the board is looking for. They do what the board wants."
Romagnoli said, "If we say that the most important qualification is a doctorate then they will find us people with doctorates. In other words, whatever qualifications we state, they will find candidates with those qualifications."
Rudd said, "We need to make a decision at the November 19 meeting of the board as whether or not we will hire a consultant. We don't need to hire that night but we have to make a decision about what we are going to do that night. However, if we could decide on a consultant at that meeting it would be great and we could get the ball rolling."
Toward the end of the work session there was a suggestion made by Trustee Giarratani to hire a post office box so that all resumes could go to that box directly and not get mixed up in the school mail.
However, the board seemed to think that it would be a problem to have the resumes come through the school addressed to District Clerk Diana Biehayn.
At the end of the work session it was decided that no matter what, an ad would be placed in The New York Times in December and the board will decide, after interviewing firms, whether or not to go with one of them or whether or not to do the superintendent search on their own. The board then excused all the residents who attended the work session so that it could interview a search consultant.
The decision of the school board, whether or not to hire a consultant to conduct the superintendent search will be announced at the Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m. school board meeting to be held at the Manor Oaks School.