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Looking For A New Superintendent

Redding and Easton residents attended a public forum to give their insight into what they want in their new superintendent.

Whoever Redding and Easton's new superintendent will be, some residents who spoke at a public forum on the issue agreed it's important he or she commit to the district.

On Monday night, the ER9 Superintendent Search Steering Committee held a public forum at with the primary goals of receiving feedback from the community and to create a discourse with those who wish to know more about the superintendent search process.

Leon Karvelis, who chairs the committee, which began with a brief PowerPoint presentation and then quickly opened up to public comment.

Mary Ellen Lake of Redding asked if the next superintendent “would come on board for more than one year.”

“The standard contract is a three-year contract,” said committee member James Barickman. He also noted that it would be impossible to keep someone who wanted to quit.

While retiring Superintendent Michael Cicchetti was a successful leader, committee members said, his leaving of the position less than a year later had townspeople concerned with the details of the oncoming superintendent.

Lake wondered whether Cicchetti was having trouble with attending three separate school board meetings and the ad-hoc tri-board.

Completely changing the way the three-district board meetings work was “not in the cards,” said Karvelis, adding that being a superintendent would no doubt be “challenging,” and that the three-district position was unique, but could certainly be done. The boards, he said, were always looking for ways to make their meetings easier and more streamlined.

Mike D’Agostino, of Glen Hill Road, asked if the next superintendent would be required to live less than an hour away, citing Cicchetti’s two-hour commute as being a possible retirement factor, a claim the superintendent has denied.

The committee said that they could not require someone to relocate, and also cited former superintendent Allen Fossbender’s hour-long commute as being a nonfactor during his time on the job.

“It’s not about the romance of being superintendent [Easton and Redding's schools]. It’s about the reality” of being the superintendent of those schools, said Holocomb.

Several people, including D’Agostino and Jan Dorenbosch of Redding, were concerned with the possibility of not having a superintendent by the deadline of July 1.

“Do we really think we’re going to hire somebody by July 1,” asked D’Agostino.

The committee said they were “optimistic” about finding a suitable person for the job by that time. However, if they can not do so, they will hire a retired superintendent as an interim superintendent while the committee prolongs its search.

The committee said that they were looking at 15 candidates.

Eliza Holcomb, the senior consultant for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Search Services, stressed “quality over quantity.”

The committee said they had at least one unnamed candidate who stands out.

Redding resident Kathleen Gombos, Principal of the Johnson School in Bethel, requested that the new candidate be a proponent for special education.

D’Agostino also wondered if the new superintendent would be receiving a comparable salary to Cicchetti. The committee said that they could not publicly discuss financial details, but that their average salary for superintendents was below the average for its District Reference Group, which includes New Canaan, Westport, Wilton, Darien, Weston and Ridgefield.

The committee also highlighted the fact that Holocomb was working under no expense to the taxpayers of the three districts.

“A distant superintendent is not going to work in this community,” said Karvelis, referencing Cicchetti’s personable demeanor with students during a school tour which took place last year. “[Cicchetti] was not only charming but also had given us the impression that he had gotten to know the students in a very short period of time."

The committee said it will conduct “psych visits” to candidate’s current districts in order to evaluate their interpersonal skills with students.

Eustace Tilley March 16, 2011 at 11:20 AM
Take Wilton's Assistant Super...please! We don't need her and we'll save some money in the process...
Lori Moir March 16, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Having a required survey at the end (or sudden departure) of any town employee position would provide concrete answers and stop all this guessing. People are allowed to leave (this is not China) but if the reasons are job related (versus family related or medical reasons) we need to know. If this position is too convoluted, it needs to be addressed with a swift and honest revamp. I for one think the idea of our combined high school's curriculum needs further attention particularly since the Easton and Redding elementary and middle schools don't even operate exactly alike from kindergaten going foward.

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