Waterville will focus on finding a new school superintendent, instead of hiring an assistant

WATERVILLE — Waterville School Board President Joan Phillips-Sandy said Monday night that after receiving feedback from parents and others, she decided the best strategy was to seek out a school superintendent at the instead of an assistant superintendent – and as soon as possible.

“I still believe an assistant superintendent is good for this district,” she said. “However, I am perfectly happy to let this be the superintendent’s next call.”

Phillips-Sandy told the board, parents and educators who attended Monday night’s school board meeting that she would begin assembling a search committee on Tuesday to include no more than three board members, at least one parent or guardian, a community member, school faculty members, and an administrator.

She said she had spoken with City Manager Steve Daly about the search and that if it didn’t produce a strong candidate it would be reopened.

“We don’t settle,” Phillips-Sandy said. “I’m not ready to settle down.”

She said she will lead the committee and that board member Greg Bazakas will be a member. Board members Maryanne Bernier and Pat Helm have also expressed interest in serving on the committee.

Superintendent Eric Haley, who has held the position for 20 years, said he plans to retire this year. He recently recommended that the board hire an assistant superintendent whom he and others could mentor so the person can fill the superintendent position when Haley, 67, retires.

Last week, however, several parents asked the Board of Education to gather more information from parents, teachers, business people and others about the type of person to hire as a superintendent. of the city school, with some saying the focus should be on hiring a superintendent, not an assistant superintendent.

The Board of Education makes the final decision on these hires.

Bazakas said Monday that the council must decide what type of search committee should be set up, how members should be recruited and what the community and the district need in a superintendent.

Bazakas and Bernier again emphasized the need for community input. Board member Pam Trinward said the superintendent position can be advertised immediately and people are encouraged to contribute at every school board meeting.

Bernier said it’s important to know people’s visions for a superintendent and what their qualifications should be.

Phillips-Sandy said that to some extent, a superintendent’s job description is determined by state law. Bazakas asked if she would consider forming the search committee by soliciting letters of interest from those interested in serving on the committee. Phillips-Sandy said she would look at the letters, but added, “Here’s the thing. A camel is a horse designed by a committee. I need our committee to be a horse, not a camel.

According to Haley and Steve Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association and executive director of the Maine School Boards Association, few candidates tend to apply for open superintendent positions.

At last week’s meeting, Bailey said six or seven candidates typically apply for an available superintendent position. The national average term for a school superintendent was five years, according to Bailey. He is now 2.8 years old.

Waterville employed an assistant superintendent for many years, the last being Peter Thiboutot, now superintendent of schools in Winslow. Thiboutot was assistant superintendent for the alternative organizational structure 92, which included Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro.

This structure, whose superintendent was Haley, was dissolved in 2018, after nine years, and Winslow hired Thiboutot as superintendent. Waterville reverted to Waterville Public Schools, with Haley continuing as superintendent and without an assistant.

Waterville parent Carrie LeVan on Monday thanked the Board of Education for considering public feedback and asked the board to reach out to community partners, such as the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce or the Colby College, to see if they would help fund a superintendent. to look for.

LeVan said the success of the city’s school district is critical for businesses and colleges in their own recruiting processes.

“I think they’re encouraged to help provide some of those resources, if you ask,” she said.

LeVan added that it’s important to craft a message for potential superintendents that would entice them to come to Waterville.

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