NHPS Board of Education president Edward Joyner sent out a new timeline for finding a district superintendent on late Thursday night.
The district has been without a permanent superintendent since the resignation of Garth Harries last September. The Board of Education hired national headhunting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates in August 2016 to assist with the search for a new schools’ chief, but internal BOE disagreements have delayed a final decision.
The new timeline was created with a majority vote of the superintendent search committee and published by Carlos Torre, one of three co-chairs, according to Joyner. He said the new timeline, which sets Oct. 23 as the date on which the BOE will finalize a contract, is similar to a timeline agreed upon by the BOE over the summer. The timeline includes interview opportunities for Connecticut candidates who were previously dismissed by the BOE’s search firm. Joyner said the district will face challenges, including possible state budget cuts, and will need an experienced leader.
“We need a superintendent and our students need a superintendent,” Joyner told the News on Thursday night. “We can’t keep going on like this.”
Darnell Goldson, one of three co-chairs and the previous chair of the search committee, called for a halt to the search process this month to examine perceived procedural problems with the selection process, including the absence of internal New Haven candidates from the final pool.
Goldson’s request prompted BOE President Ed Joyner to add two additional co-chairs, Carlos Torre and Che Dawson, to the search committee. Joyner assured the public at the meeting that the process would be moving forward despite Goldson’s objections.
“I have a lot of questions for them about their previous search experience and I’m wondering why they’re not here to answer these questions,” Goldson said at Monday’s BOE meeting when he learned HYA would not be in attendance to answer board members’ questions.
Joyner said that when the search firm asked the Board whether internal candidates should be separated from external ones in the process, the Board answered that the firm should judge candidates through “the same lens and by the same standard” regardless of where they come from.
Joyner said the firm did exactly what the BOE asked. He added that the BOE voted unanimously to hire HYA.
During the meeting, Goldson made a motion that the BOE will re-evaluate all applicants from the state of Connecticut that met “baseline qualifications” before coming to a final decision. The motion passed by a 3–2 vote, with one abstention.
The quarrels within the New Haven Board of Education over the ongoing superintendent search have left parents worrying that their children’s education may be in jeopardy. At a Citywide Parent Team meeting last Friday at Career High School, parents voiced concerns about the search process.
“This is parlor tricks, not politics,” CPT President Nijija-Ife Waters said in reference to what many parents perceive as a failure by the School Board to solicit parents’ and other stakeholders’ stances on which traits they value in the district’s leader.
Waters said only four parents were given in-person interviews in a district of over 20,000, noting that without parents there would be no school district.
Other parents expressed concern that most of the BOE members are out of touch with the needs of children in the district.
Tagan Engel, a current NHPS parent and former educator who has worked in New York City and Boston, criticized a public online survey conducted by HYA, which she said missed important criteria such as a potential candidate’s policies toward punishment within the district.
“I firsthand have experienced what the harm of punishment and suspensions does,” Engle said. “I have spent six years advocating for other people’s children when they have been suspended for ridiculous things starting in second grade. I have watched how we have created the achievement gap in our schools. I have watched how we have created the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Makayla Dawkins, a Board of Education student representative, told the News that she does not believe students have been involved enough in selecting a new district leader. She said there are not enough students attending meetings and asking questions.
The New Haven Board of Education meets on the first and fourth Monday of every month at L.W. Beecher School.
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Correction, Oct. 6: A previous of the article incorrectly stated that Tagan Engel was a former NHPS teacher. In fact, she is a former educator who has worked in New York City and Boston.