Superintendent’s Post - Consultants Seek Role In Finding Replacement
By: Alex Scofield
Will the ongoing dispute over the Sandwich schools superintendent’s contract make it difficult to find qualified candidates for the position? Two consulting firms are vying for the privilege of finding out.
Representatives for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) and the New England School Development Council (NESDC) pled their cases before Sandwich School Committee members on Wednesday night.
A third consultant, Cape Cod Collaborative, was originally scheduled to appear on Wednesday, but withdrew its candidacy in the past week.
In meeting the consulting candidates, the school committee took another step toward finding a successor to Mary Ellen Johnson, the current superintendent. In April, the committee voted to extend Dr. Johnson’s contract through 2013, but Assistant District Attorney Thomas Shack ruled that the meeting at which Dr. Johnson’s contract was extended was held in violation of open meeting law. Mr. Shack advised the committee to repost the meeting, and vote again on extending Dr. Johnson’s contract.
In June, with two new members, the school committee again voted on extending Dr. Johnson’s contract through 2013. This time they voted 4-3 not to renew the contract, which expires after the current school year. The status of Dr. Johnson’s contract has been in dispute ever since.
Last month, in a letter from her attorney, Dr. Johnson gave the committee a deadline of October 10 to recognize her contract extension as valid. The committee discussed the letter behind closed doors in September, and Chairman Sharron L. Marshall said that the committee responded through a letter by its legal counsel, but as of Wednesday had not received a response.
Committee member Andrea M. Killion asked the representatives of each consulting group on Wednesday night how they intended to address the situation surrounding Dr. Johnson’s contract.
“Be honest,” said Art Bettencourt of NESDC. “We will work with you about how that should be presented.”
Bruce Willard, Mr. Bettencourt’s colleague at NESDC, said, “We assure you, good candidates do their homework.”
“I let the legal stuff handle itself,” said Jim Hardy of MASC.
The school committee conducted its most recent superintendent searches without hiring a consultant. In September, though, members unanimously voted to retain one for the current search.
“There’s a lot of competition out there,” said Mr. Willard of NESDC. “Good candidates are going to have opportunities.”
Mr. Hardy of MASC said that an effective search required informing qualified educators of the opening,
whether or not they actively sought the position. “The ones who are looking for jobs, we’ll find.”
As for a time frame in choosing a consultant, Ms. Marshall said, “We’re leaving it open. We’ll put it on the agenda for the next meeting.”
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