The Board of Education has hired a national search firm to try to find the next city schools superintendent by March — raising public concerns that the process to find Iline Tracey’s replacement needs to be longer and more community-focused.
That update and debate played out Wednesday night during a workshop hosted by the Board of Alders Education Committee in the Aldermanic Chamber on the second floor of City Hall.
The workshop focused on the district’s hiring process for a new superintendent for the New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) district.
Tracey, who has led the city school district for the past three years, plans to retire at the end of the current school year in June.
Board of Education Vice President Matt Wilcox told the committee alders that the Board of Education has hired the search firm McPherson and Jacobson to help NHPS look across the nation for a new schools superintendent before the end of the 2022 – 2023 school year.
The ed board approved the voted 6 – 0 on Monday to hire the search firm, with Board of Education member Darnell Goldson recusing himself from the vote.
Wilcox described the superintendent search process on Wednesday as still in its beginning stages with a search committee including all Board of Education members and, possibly, more public school stakeholders.
He added that the Board of Education has a set goal to to complete the superintendent search in four months, by March 2023. He described that timeline as “aggressive but reasonable.” He also said that timeline is not written in stone.
The district will host at least one public hearing during the search process to gain feedback from New Haven residents, Wilcox said. He invited community members to testify about the superintendent search during the Board of Education’s upcoming meetings during the public comment portion.
The McPherson and Jacobson firm will be tasked with interviewing the candidates and doing reference checks and evaluations for the Board to review when making a final decision on whom to hire.
He said a key step in the process will include creating stakeholder groups made up of teacher union members, teachers, administrators, and community members to “get a sense of what New Haven wants for their next superintendent.”
A city-wide survey will also be sent out to supplement those stakeholder meetings.
West Rock/West Hills Alder Honda Smith asked Wilcox if the public hearing, interviews, and stakeholder meetings will be hosted in-person or via Zoom with the Board of Education. Wilcox said the firm has recommended the Board do a combination of the two throughout the process.
East Rock Alder Claudia Herrera emphasized how important the upcoming superintendent hire is and asked Wilcox how likely it is that the process will be completed by March. She cautioned the board member about a potentially “rushed” timeline and advised that it be extended.
Wilcox said the deadline can be extended if the Board of Education decides to do so. He said he thinks the timeline is considerate of Tracey’s planned departure at the end of this school year. He added that an earlier decision would allow for the selected individual to get better acquainted with the role and officially move into the job immediately after Tracey leaves.
Fair Haven Alder Sarah Miller cautioned the Board of Education to not repeat the same mistakes as the district made during its 2017 hiring of former superintendent Carol Birks. She said she’s concerned that the hiring plan so far seems similar to the process that was used to select Birks as the district’s superintendent
“I don’t think anybody is taking lessons form the last search and saying let’s do that again,” Wilcox said.
When asked what lessons the Board of Education has gained since Birks was hired and later resigned, Wilcox responded that the Board has learned to avoid going against the community’s concerns.
Wilcox suggested community members reach out to the Board of Education over the next two weeks with suggestions for the search process, including who to include in stakeholder meetings.
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