The city school board plans to form a selection committee in the next two months to recommend a successor to Superintendent Christina Kishimoto by springtime.
"I think the best thing for us is to be absolutely transparent," said board Chairman Matthew Poland, adding that "we want to make sure we conduct this search without destabilizing the district."
But before recruiting a replacement for Kishimoto, who did not receive an extension to her three-year contract ending in mid-2014, the board is taking steps to revise its policy that addresses a superintendent search.
The leadership succession policy that a different board majority approved in fall 2010 states that the board can launch a "traditional" search only if no qualified candidate is found within the school system. The board that created the policy then chose Kishimoto, a Hartford assistant superintendent, as the successor to former Superintendent Steven Adamowski in 2011.
At the time, Mayor Pedro Segarra criticized the selection process as lacking "transparency"-- only two internal candidates were interviewed -- and unsuccessfully called for a national search. Segarra, who later appointed himself and four other new members to the board, said there were complaints in the city that Kishimoto was the "predetermined" choice to continue Adamowski's reform strategies.
The Segarra-majority school board voted in June to reject Kishimoto's request for an extension, citing communication problems and frustration over the pace of the reform efforts.
Members of the board's policy committee met this week to begin the process of eliminating the provision that requires "an internal, districtwide recruitment."
Poland said he would like to broaden the policy to allow the board to hire a consulting firm this fall to recruit candidates regionally or nationally.
Poland's proposed policy revision states that the board "may hire a search consultant with specific expertise in the recruitment of candidates with educational reform experience in an urban setting compatible with the district's policies and strategic operating principles."
The board will seek a first reading of the draft policy at its Aug. 27 regular meeting, Poland said. A second reading and board approval could occur in September.
Around October, the board would establish a selection committee, including members of the board and community, that would be tasked with interviewing top candidates, he said. The goal is to have Kishimoto's successor chosen by April.
If the policy is changed, the board would solicit proposals from consulting firms and hire one to conduct the search.
Poland said he learned from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education that "we are the only [board] in the state of Connecticut that has a policy like that," where it is written down that the board must review internal candidates first for the superintendent's job.
In practice, however, it is not unusual for school boards to look inward, said Nick Caruso, a spokesman for CABE. The idea is "if we have a good, strong leadership team, we should be growing our own."
Caruso noted New Haven's search after longtime Superintendent Reginald Mayo announced in February that he is retiring this year. That city's school board hired a K-12 consulting firm for $22,000 to recruit nationally, receiving 66 applications and some public criticism that the process was "rushed," the New Haven Independent reported.
The board appointed internal candidate Garth Harries, an assistant superintendent, last month as the new leader of New Haven public schools.
In Hartford, "the ultimate result is to get the most highly qualified person to continue the efforts to move our district forward," Segarra said Monday. "I think if you have the board consulting with other groups and the community, we will get closer to that."
Kishimoto has pledged to work with the board through the transition.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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