The New Haven Board of Education discussed the search for a new superintendent on Wednesday night as Daisy Gonzalez presided over her first meeting as BOE president.
At the end of the meeting, Gonzalez called for an executive session to discuss the possibility of extending interim superintendent Reginald Mayo’s contract. Mayo, who returned to New Haven Public Schools in October after the resignation of previous superintendent Garth Harries ’95, is under contract through June.
“We might not be ready to fill the position by June 30,” Gonzalez said.
The BOE did not approve anything at the executive session, she said. BOE Secretary Darnell Goldson said Mayo, who served as NHPS superintendent for 21 years before Harries’ tenure, agreed to stay on longer if the BOE needs him to do so.
Still, the BOE’s search process appears to be progressing. Governance Committee co-chair Che Dawson said some members of the BOE met earlier this week with three potential search firms to assist the district in its superintendent search. He said the rest of the BOE must now review their presentation materials and then come to a group decision on which firm to hire. Each firm laid out a timeline and all said they could find a superintendent by July 1, he said.
BOE member Carlos Torre listed Ray and Associates and Total HR Solutions as two of the potential firms. He said he hopes the BOE will decide on a firm within 10 days. However, in response to a public comment about potential superintendent candidates, he invited attendees to submit suggestions if they wished to do so.
“We don’t need a search firm to submit names,” Torre said. “Names can come in at any time.”
Besides the search for a superintendent, the BOE also discussed the possibility of an all-boy’s charter school focused on African-American and Hispanic youths, a proposal that has caused controversy within the district.
Public comments voiced at the meeting by community member raised concerns that such a school was a form of segregation and would hinder students’ abilities to learn in a diverse environment. Another attendee raised concerns that the district lacks the funding to create such a school.
But Harp, who was present at the meeting, said she believes the BOE must have a conversation about solutions to prevent young men in New Haven from ending up in jail. Connecticut’s incarceration rate in 2015 was 312 people out of 100,000, according to the National Institute of Corrections.
Goldson also noted that African-American and Latino boys happen to be those struggling the most in New Haven.
“I hope that we would be open minded to whatever it takes to rescue the lives of these young people,” Harp said.
After the meeting, Goldson said he does not believe the district has the resources to create another school, but said he believes it is important to have conversations that address how the district can help disadvantaged students.
The meeting, including the executive session, concluded by 6:40 p.m. and Torre congratulated Gonzalez on presiding over her first full meeting.
In an interview with the News before Wednesday’s meeting, Gonzalez said she was very nervous about her first full session as president, but motivated given her strong desire to make sure children in New Haven are getting the best education possible. She said she felt optimistic about her ability to resolve any conflict, adding that she believes she has a good relationship with the other BOE members. She also said she hopes to set up regular meetings between the BOE’s executive officers and Mayo, Mayor Toni Harp and potentially the New Haven Board of Alders to increase transparency and accountability on the BOE.
Gonzalez said she also wants to focus on getting teachers and parents input. Teachers, she said, are the district’s foundation, and she said she hopes teachers know that if they are having any difficulties they are welcome and free to come to the BOE at any time.
New Haven currently has nine charter schools.