Editorial: Local search for superintendent a step in the right direction

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Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo placed an item on the committee’s Thursday, Jan. 21, agenda which reads: “To request that the School Committee conduct an internal search, under the direction of Mayor Petty, for the next superintendent with a deadline sometime in March for the final interviews.”

John Monfredo

Courtesy LinkedIn

John Monfredo

The debate over whether to conduct a national or local search to replace departed school boss Melinda J. Boone has been ongoing since the School Committee chose by a 4-3 vote to name former chief academic officer Marco C. Rodrigues interim superintendent in October.

Monfredo was one of three committee members, with Brian O’Connell and Dianna Biancheria, to support South High Community School Principal Maureen F. Binienda in October.

As we wrote on Oct. 25, “The clear and unambiguous support of two internal candidates leads us to a simple question about holding a nationwide search: Why?”

We believe the immediate job of the new superintendent is to restore flagging confidence in school administration. Conducting a nationwide search before local candidates have been interviewed does nothing to repair the fissures within the community’s split perception of the Worcester Public Schools.

In a Jan. 19 interview with the Sun, Monfedo said, “I’ve been in the system a long time, and I feel I have a good handle as to whether there are good candidates within the system.

“I went through the national search with Dr. Boone the last time around and this time I felt we do have some outstanding candidates,” he added. “And plus the fact I’m not willing to spend the taxpayers’ money, about $50,000, to conduct a search when I think we have some candidates locally.”

With this in mind, we support Monfredo’s agenda item and urge the School Committee to pass it unanimously, sending a strong message to the community.

At the same time, a local search should not be pro forma.

We believe the School Committee should engage as many stakeholders as possible — the public, administration and staff, the business and higher education communities, and local education policy experts — to gather and assimilate feedback with the goal of creating a standard against which any candidate can be measured.

Additionally, we believe the School Committee then needs to retain the option of conducting a nationwide search if it believes that no internal candidates fit the bill.

An internal search would be a positive step in uniting the community. At the same time, a process that is not inclusive, objective and transparent would reverse any gains.

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