As the search for a permanent superintendent for New Haven Public Schools continues, the city’s school board remains without a seventh member, reflecting widespread internal strife among city education officials.
The Board of Education, which is tasked with choosing a new superintendent, currently comprises only six of the requisite seven members, some of whom have begun to miss meetings and, as such, prevent the board from reaching a quorum. The search for a permanent NHPS superintendent has been in the works since last September and was supposed to conclude over the summer. But Edward McCormick, a representative from Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the search firm in charge of finding a suitable replacement, estimated that it will take at least four more weeks to finish interviews and contract negotiations.
The original pool of applicants included 46 people, from which 22 were selected for close screening, according to McCormick. Six candidates from across the country remain under review by the BOE search committee.
“I’ve seen superintendents that have had shorter tenures than the lifetime of this search and screen,” said BOE Vice President Carlos Torre at Monday’s BOE meeting.
Torre was elected vice president at Monday’s meeting, as the board had been without a vice president since the death of former President Daisy Gonzalez this July. After her passing, former Vice President Edward Joyner became president of the BOE for the remainder of Gonzalez’s term.
The superintendent search firm is looking for a candidate that will meet community needs based on surveys and focus group discussions, McCormick said at Monday’s meeting. He apologized for the delays and stressed that the search must be continued in a timely manner as “good people only last so long.”
He highlighted problems with communication between the BOE’s search committee and the search firm as a reason for the delays.
Joyner praised the search firm’s efforts and said they have gone through the proper procedures, adding that the BOE needs to take certain steps to smooth the process. He did not specifically describe what those steps should be, but he emphasized the need to stop “wasting public money” and finally complete the search.
The BOE has been under additional stress as board members Mayor Toni Harp and Darnell Goldson have failed to attend meetings for the past three weeks.
Gonzalez’s position on the board has not been filled, as New Haven’s Board of Alders has yet to approve the candidate nominated by Harp. With only four voting members present at the past three meetings, the BOE is below the original number of members required for a quorum according to the BOE bylaws.
Torre said the BOE voted to change their bylaws to require four voting members at their Aug. 14 meeting, the last meeting that Harp attended. But Goldson was not present at the meeting and has accused the BOE of not following BOE bylaws and state laws. Goldson has drafted a Freedom of Information Commission complaint against Joyner and interim superintendent Reginald Mayo, according to documents he shared with the News on Monday night.
Torre said the BOE would not have been able to pass the personal reports required to ensure that the district had enough teachers without the measure that changed the bylaws as the district was short 40 teachers. The BOE consulted with legal representation and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education about the changes, he said.
Florence Caldwell, a retired district employee and an education advocate, said she was saddened to see Harp and Goldson again missing the meeting. Caldwell said the board would not be in such a situation if Gonzalez was alive, and called the turmoil “a disgrace.”
Sara Tabin | firstname.lastname@example.org