Amid a prolonged search for a new district superintendent, the Board of Education has added a new member, as well as an updated timetable for the superintendent search committee.
Superintendent search committee co-chairs Darnell Goldson and Che Dawson developed a final version of the search committee’s timetable last Thursday. The new timeline outlines the search committee’s schedule for interviewing, assessing and giving a final recommendation for a new superintendent. Voting on a final recommendation for a new superintendent to the Board of Education will take place on Nov. 20 at the latest, according to the schedule.
“We all want to make sure that we do this before the end of the year, and I think we are in a good position to do that,” Goldson said.
Along with the new timetable, the Board of Alders on Monday night approved Mayor Toni Harp’s nomination of Jamell Cotto to the Board of Education.
Since the resignation of Garth Harries ’95 last September, the New Haven school district has been operating without a permanent superintendent. Instead, former superintendent Reginald Mayo has retaken his post in an interim capacity since October 2016.
This spring, the Board of Education hired national headhunting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to assist with the search for a new superintendent, but actual resume and application reviews have only begun recently.
Last month, Goldson, who previously chaired the search committee on his own, called for a pause in the search so that the committee could address problems that had arisen in the selection process. Goldson and others were concerned that the search firm did not select any New Haven residents as finalists for the position. Upon Goldson’s request, BOE president Ed Joyner added two additional co-chairs, Carlos Torre and Dawson, to the search committee. At its last meeting, the Board of Education approved Goldson’s request that the board add additional members to the search committee.
“Adding voices to any process is a good thing” Goldson said. “I think it makes us more efficient and more open to different viewpoints.”
On Oct. 12, Goldson and Dawson developed a final version of the superintendent search committee timetable, which indicates that the rest of October will be dedicated to holding community forums, assessing and scoring Connecticut applicants against a common rubric and interviewing all candidates.
The search committee will start assessing Connecticut candidates against the common rubric this week. The list of remaining Connecticut candidates will be finalized by Oct. 23, according to Goldson.
The forums are intended to get input and field questions from the public. The search firm, however, has requested that Board of Education members not attend these forums.
“They want [the forums] to be a place where folks can come and be able to speak freely without having the watchful eyes of board members there,” Goldson said.
He, added that although he understand the firm’s reasoning, the decision still makes him feel “uncomfortable.”
After the forums are held, the firm will give the search committee a report outlining the events.
But at this point, Goldson said he has heard only “bits and pieces” about the most recent community forum, which was held Oct. 10.
After the at-large public forums, the search committee will host additional community forums, which will include conversations with individual candidates. One of the candidate-specific forums will be open only to students, teachers and school staff. Goldson said he expects the search committee will appear at these meetings.
Once all the forums are finished, the committee will send a final recommendation to the Board of Education on Nov. 20, according to the updated timeline.
Although this is the “second or third” timetable created, Goldson believes the committee will be able to meet this deadline.
Makayla Dawkins, a Board of Education member and junior at James Hillhouse High School, said she believes the search process is going well but wants to see more community involvement. She said she attributes the sparse crowds at community forums and board meetings to a lack of communication between the search committee and the public.
She noted that meetings were often advertised only a day in advance and usually only at board meetings or with flyers.
“There was a lack of communication from the board to the community, and if there was communication, it wasn’t really put out there in a timely fashion” Dawkins said.
Dawkins said she believes the superintendent search has led to confusion in the community. Locals she has spoken with, she said, do not understand the process. For example, she said, many people have asked her to describe the traits of the superintendent candidates, but she has been unable to give them any information since she has not met all the candidates. Dawkins said she hopes the new timeline will allow individuals to better track the committee’s progress.
The Board of Alders also approved a new Board of Education member on Monday night, Jamell Cotto, the family center director at Catholic Charities Centro San Jose Family Center.
“He has the ability of getting people to agree on an agenda from different, diverse poles” Ward 6 alder Dolores Colon said. She added that he is an “admirable problem solver.”
Colon sits on the Aldermanic Affairs committee, which interviews all mayoral appointees. She praised his work at the Family Center, whose role in the community has grown under Cotto, she said. Colon said she believes he will be an asset on the Board of Education in an important time.
In May, Cotto registered as Democratic candidate for one of the two contested seats on the Board of Education, seeking to replace President Ed Joyner.
The superintendent search committee’s next full meeting will be held on Oct. 23.
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