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Letter: Melrose superintendent search takes a village

Posted by Marcia Dick  January 30, 2012 10:30 AM

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The following was submitted by Margaret Driscoll, a member of the Melrose School Committee and chairwoman of the Superintendent Search Committee:


One of the most important responsibilities assigned to School Committees in Massachusetts is the hiring of a superintendent.  When Superintendent Joseph Casey announced his retirement in October 2011, the Melrose School Committee began a process to find and hire an individual who is a superb fit for our community and who will bring our students to the next level of academic achievement.

According to the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), about 40 districts in our state are looking for superintendents this year.  Some districts hire a consulting firm to manage this process, but the School Committee chose to conduct the search ourselves, believing that the depth of the community’s expertise, effort, and energy is greater than the depth of its pockets.

Starting in the fall, the School Committee set an aggressive search timeline and hosted a public forum and survey to gain community input on the attributes, skills, and experience desired in a new superintendent. Committee members Chris Casatelli and Don Lehman, in conjunction with Melrose IT Director Jorge Pazos and independent IT consultant Brian Johnson, created an outstanding melrosesuperintendentsearch.com website for candidates to explore our city and schools virtually, and to then apply.

Each school site council recruited parents; each staff group recruited members; and community members and experts in the field came forward for consideration as Search Committee members.

Selection Panel members Kristin Thorp, Don Constantine, and Chris Casatelli sifted through those submissions to ensure the applicants were qualified - they were - and the group sent along their names to the full committee for consideration. The 13-member Search Committee was formed and has met twice (as of Jan. 27).  

In our first gathering, we met City Solicitor Robert Van Campen with whom we work closely to ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are carefully followed (including those regarding creating agendas, keeping minutes, voting on decisions, and others). We also met Melrose Human Resources Director Marianne Long and her trusty sidekick Human Resources Manager Polly Latta, who are collecting application materials, screening for minimum requirements as set by the School Committee, and ensuring that we respect the confidential nature of personnel materials.  MASC Field Representative Mike Gilbert offered us an orientation, explaining how search committees work, what we should expect to accomplish, and how to manage that.

In our second meeting, we began crafting the interview questions we plan to ask candidates, and we’ll meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 31 to continue that effort. We’ll also host a second forum later that evening to allow the Search Committee itself to hear from the community.  (More survey information has been gathered, too.)

Superintendent candidates must apply by Feb. 7, and then the Search Committee will sift through application materials to determine who to interview based on all the data gathered.  After that, we’ll host interviews for applicants we feel have qualifications that meet the needs of the Melrose Public Schools and ideally recommend three to five individuals to the School Committee in late February or early March.  The School Committee will then interview the candidates, and deliberate and vote on a final candidate.

The Melrose School Committee takes the responsibility for hiring and evaluating superintendents very seriously. We are grateful to each and every parent, citizen, staff member, business owner, civic organization member, and city employee for not only expecting a top-notch education for Melrose students, but for offering your time, talent, and treasure to make that happen.  

It really does take a village to raise a child, and to hire a superintendent!

Margaret Driscoll
Member, Melrose School Committee
Chair, Superintendent Search Committee


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