The Port Washington School District has engaged SCOPE, an educational search firm, to assist in seeking a Superintendent of Schools to replace Dr. Albert Inserra, who is expected to leave at the end of this school year.
SCOPE is conducting a series of meetings with the various stakeholder groups to get input about what qualities they most want to see in a superintendent. Last week they held an open forum school for all members of the community at Weber Middle School. About a dozen parents and interested community members attended.
Although the main focus of the meeting was to have been a discussion of the desired qualities for the new superintendent, the major part of the discussion focused on the search process. A major concern was whether the board of education could put aside their differences long enough to agree on the choice of a superintendent. Some also wondered whether the publicity surrounding the board's contentiousness would frighten off good candidates. Others wondered about the board's lack of experience with this kind of hiring. Leonard Adler, SCOPE's deputy director for management, who facilitated the community meeting, said that he agreed that there were challenges here, but that he was "optimistic" and had confidence in the board. He pointed out that the Port Washington School District has a good reputation, and would be considered by many to be a "plum" assignment. He added that they are casting a wide net for candidates, publicizing the position nationally through advertising, mailings and their web site. In answer to a community member's question, Adler said that the salary is "competitive."
In response to queries about the search process, Dr. Adler said that SCOPE would do an initial screening of all the applications. This first stage will take place during the next few weeks. Next, they will interview the most promising candidates and do further screening. By mid-April, SCOPE expects to submit their final choices to the board of education, with oral comments and recommendations about each candidate. At that point, the board takes over and makes a final choice. SCOPE will train and coach the board on performing interviews and making the final selection. Adler commented that they would like the choice to be unanimous, but that "with respect to Port Washington that is shaky."
One parent raised a concern that because of the focus on construction issues, we might have lost sight of the importance of educational philosophy in choosing a superintendent. Another parent wanted to be sure that the new person would be prepared to meet the needs of gifted children. Along the same lines, others expressed concern about teachers who teach the same material repeatedly, when many of the children have already mastered the subject.
Previously that day, SCOPE held nine meetings with groups representing parents, staff, teachers, and the community, including The General Council of Homeowners of Greater Port Washington. Said General Council President Dan Donatelli, who also attended the public forum, "The General Council is very encouraged with the open and honest exchange of ideas. We expect that this constructive dialogue will continue into the future." Dr. Adler said that there was a good turnout during the day, and commented that "These are good people, well informed." He said that among the main desired characteristics brought up by the participants were: construction experience, re-districting experience, good people skills, and leadership qualities. "We're interested in a good fit," he said.
Richard Sussman, president of the board of education, said that he is very happy with SCOPE's screening process. "We have picked an excellent firm," he said, "tops in the field." When asked about the characteristics that he thought were most important for a new Superintendent, he responded "Educational values - accountability in education. We all want the very best person that we can get."