Board of Education to continue superintendent search

Board of Education
Photo by JiWon Lee.

The New Haven Board of Education decided on Tuesday to continue its ongoing selection process for a new city superintendent rather than wait for New Haven’s future mayor to participate in the decision.

At their meeting on Tuesday, board members agreed that though the mayor is still a member of the Board of Education, they cannot wait until the new mayor is elected in November to choose who will replace outgoing Superintendent Reginald Mayo, who will retire at the end of the school year. Instead, the board will ask each mayoral candidate his or her criteria for the new superintendent and consider those views in its selection.

“To slow down the [selection] process would be killing the momentum that we have right now,” the Board of Education Curriculum Committee President Carlos Torre said.

Torre explained that since New Haven’s education system is going through a period of significant growth and reform, having an interim superintendent will hinder the city’s public schools from ongoing improvement. Mayo, who was elected to the position in 1992, has been working with outgoing Mayor John DeStefano Jr. for almost all of his two decades of service. The smooth collaboration of the two in the education sector has “made [New Haven] unique,” according to the Board of Education curriculum committee chair Susan Samuels. The mayor has always been present at the board meetings, she said.

The city began its search for superintendent last month by hiring search firm PROACT to screen potential candidates. The Board of Education will select the new leader according to a participatory search process involving three open forums — the second of which is taking place today — and 17 focus groups to hear from the community’s stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers and community organizations.

“There is so much at stake,” said Alex Johnston, a member of the Board of Education. “But at the end of the day we need a leader who can make informed, good decisions.”

Torre said that the superintendent’s leadership is critical to maintaining the level of achievement that New Haven public schools have been showing for the past few years. There is no other school district where “students are dying to get into public schools,” he said.

The New Haven Public Schools has 20,759 enrolled students and 45 schools.

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