City officials will appoint an interim superintendent for the New Haven Public Schools board by the next Board of Education meeting on Oct. 24, BOE member Darnell Goldson announced at a meeting Tuesday.
The interim superintendent will serve for four to six months while the BOE searches for a permanent superintendent. Goldson announced that the application for the interim position was released online on Oct. 7 and will be open until Oct. 14. Former NHPS Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 is expected to leave his position by Nov. 1.
Goldson, who serves as president of the superintendent search committee established by Mayor Toni Harp, said applications will be evaluated as they are received and that interviews with candidates will take place starting early next week. If the interview process finishes early, Goldson said a special meeting of the BOE could be called before Oct. 24 to finalize the decision.
Goldson stressed that the person to take the position should have administrative experience in urban school districts adding that he hoped that the candidate would come from a local district, since other candidates would have trouble understanding the problems that schools in the Elm City face.
“You can’t take someone out of a cupcake school district, put them in a district like ours and expect them to do anything except show up,” Goldson said.
The online application calls for 10 or more years of successful senior leadership at a school and states that candidates with a terminal degree in their area of expertise and strong working knowledge of Common Core standards and special education are preferred.
The announcement comes two weeks after Harries announced his resignation amid widespread concerns over his job performance. Many of Harries’ critics believed that his previous position at a well-to-do school district in New York City did not prepare him for the problems he would face in New Haven and cited several of his actions, such as a decision to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a time-management consultant, as evidence of his lack of preparation.
Seven BOE members, including Harp and Harries, were present at the meeting, which took place at the Beecher School. About 50 Elm City residents were also in attendance.
Goldson said the committee decided not to allow the interim superintendent to apply for the permanent position, a proposition he originally introduced. He said he wanted the interim superintendent to focus solely on directing the district for the half-year term, and added that he feared the prospect of full-term employment would distract the interim superintendent from this goal.
Some BOE members, including Alicia Caraballo, who continues to sit on the BOE although her term expired last month, did not agree with this decision.
“It might turn out that you have an interim and it’s a good fit,” Caraballo said.
BOE member Carlos Torre said at the meeting that the candidate ultimately chosen for the interim position would have his or her current job “protected,” to allow the person to return to his or her former job after the end of the interim-superintendent term.
Coral Ortiz, one of the BOE’s two student representatives, suggested that the BOE send a letter to families in the school district outlining the process and timeline for choosing a new superintendent, because many students had told her they were confused about the district’s plans. This suggestion was met with some pushback from other BOE members, who told Ortiz she could explain the BOE’s plans to students and parents herself and that a letter seemed unnecessary. In response, Ortiz said that she does not have access to the families of all 21,000 students in the district.
“I will do my part, but I think it is the board’s responsibility to also do their part,” Ortiz said.
After several minutes of discussion, Harp said she would prepare and send out a letter to NHPS families as soon as possible.
Harries was quiet for much of the meeting but said his office has been preparing for the transition to make sure work will carry on as normal once the interim superintendent takes over. Harries added that he is proud of his staff and said he is focused on ensuring students will be well-served through the transition.
Before taking on the superintendent position in 2013, Harries served as assistant superintendent for the district since 2009.