Supt. search process outlined

Jan 9, 2020 by

Published January 10, 2020

MELROSE — The search for the city’s next chief educational officer picked up steam this week, with the School Committee choosing the consultant that will help find Cyndy Taymore’s successor. Taymore, who has been the superintendent of the Melrose public schools since 2012, will retire at the end of June.

The school board decided that UMass Boston’s Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management will help lead the search for the next schools’ leader. Of the three consulting outfits that submitted proposals, Collins was the most expensive, offering its services for around $17,500. This is more than the $15,000 the school board budgeted for a consultant, so School Committee Chairman Ed O’Connell told his colleagues at a meeting Tuesday that he will try to get the Collins people to lower their price.

The Collins’ services fee includes consultant travel, miscellaneous expenses and up to four focus groups with stakeholders and presentations to the School Committee. Should the School Committee decide to have more than four focus groups it would cost $600 each. Additionally, the school district would be responsible for screening committee expenses (refreshments, for example), candidates’ expenses, advertising and criminal/credit checks, if requested. These costs are not included in the professional fee. 

On Thursday, January 16, the School Committee will hold a special meeting dedicated to the superintendent search process. They want the public to participate. Members plan to vote that night on the composition of the Superintendent Search Committee: which constituencies, stakeholders and interest groups to include on it. Once the committee composition is set, the school board will ask for resumes and letters of interest from those wishing to serve on the search committee. A selection committee will review the resumes.

The way a timeline has been tentatively set, the School Committee will decide at its February 11 meeting who will be on the Superintendent Search Committee. It will be chaired by longtime School Committeewoman Margaret ER Driscoll.

Also at next Thursday’s special meeting, the School Committee will decide the key areas that will guide the Superintendent Search Committee. A representative with the Collins Center for Public Management is expected to be on hand.

The ultimate aim is to hire new superintendent of schools in May or June, with a planned start date of July 1.

Periodic search updates will be given to the School Committee and the public.

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The Collins Center for Public Management was chosen over the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) and the Mass. Association of School Committees. In their proposals, all three organizations said they would basically do the same types of things.

 Collins Director Michael Ward wrote its “principal effort is directed at giving its clients a pool of well-qualified candidates,” and breaks down into “tasks” its process for helping a community find a new chief educational officer. That process would take about 12 weeks, and would set up like this:

Task 1: The Center’s project team would meet with the school board to establish roles and expectations of the search, and develop the parameters and oversight of the search process. “Establishing parameters, such as decision-making, creation and utilization of a screening committee, communication preferences, and identification of key district and community stakeholders at the outset of the engagement ensures an efficient and transparent process.

Task 2: Understanding the Melrose Public Schools and prepare a profile

Task 3: Networking, screening and presentation of paper candidates

Task 4: Preliminary interviews

Task 5: Reference and background checking

Task 6: Final interview and selection

The Collins Center’s fee would be $17,500 and would include consultant travel, miscellaneous expenses and up to four focus groups with stakeholders and presentations to the School Committee. Should the School Committee decide to have more than four focus groups it would cost $600 each. Additionally, the school district would be responsible for screening committee expenses (refreshments, for example), candidates’ expenses, advertising and criminal/credit checks, if requested. These costs are not included in the professional fee.   

The Mass. Association of School Committees’ Field Director/Search Consultant Dorothy Presser, a former longtime Lynnfield School Committeewoman, wrote that “Hiring your next Superintendent of Schools is one of the most important decisions that  your Committee will make. The individual you select to lead the district will shape the learning environment for years to com. The ability to meet Melrose’s high standards, improve student achievement, serve every student effectively, recruit and retain outstanding personnel, build for the future, support positive relationships with the community, and ensure a continued favorable reputation for the district will depend on the superintendent you choose. The process leading up to that selection will involve many factors, which — with experienced assistance — you can manage for a successful outcome.”

MASC said that if hired, the assigned consultant would first visit with the school board or a designated superintendent search subcommittee. “This is your search, and you will set the parameters,” Presser writes. Subjects to be discussed and decided in the early meetings include an assessment of the search environment; analysis of the district’s needs and goals; setting a timeline for the search; defining the search’s scope, superintendent qualifications and community and staff involvement, including the use of a preliminary screening committee; deciding whether to create focus groups and/or an electronic survey to elicit community feedback; a review of the requirements of the public records and open meeting statutes, and contractual details and other committee concerns.

The second step in the search, with the MASC’s help, would be community engagement (a survey or focus groups), followed by announcement of the vacancy in newspapers and Education Week, the development and distribution a brochure and application materials, collection and review of applications/selection of semi-finalists, the interview of semi-finalists, the naming of finalists, finalist site visits and interviews and a follow-up after a person has had some time to acclimate to the new position of superintendent of Melrose Public Schools.

The full search cost is $9,500 and includes all staff, labor and consulting services. Consultant travel, brochure printing and postage, and print advertising expenses would be additional.

The New England School Development Council, which was originally established at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, not only assists in searching for school superintendents but also offers services in planning and management, professional development and research and development. It has led recent superintendent searches in Dover-Sherborn, Hamilton-Wenham, Hopkinton, Masconomet Regional, Newburyport, Saugus and Wayland.

The Senior Search Associate would be Dr. Sally Dias, who at one time was the superintendent of the highly-rated Lynnfield school system.

Dias would meet with the School Committee to develop an event schedule and timeline for the entire search process. The schedule would detail the major tasks in the search process and delineate the respective responsibility of the consultant and the School Committee.

NESDEC would than publicize the vacancy, advertise the opening for about 30 days, would conduct a community-wide needs assessment, help in screening applications and assist in interviewing candidates. Also, NESDEC would administer all search details, maintain on-going communication with the School Committee and conduct a follow-up after the right candidate is found.

The fixed cost for consulting and expenses is $14,560.

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