G’town school board puts search engine in gear

GERMANTOWN–The Board of Education took its first steps last week in the search for a new superintendent for the Germantown Central School District. Former superintendent Patrick Gabriel has retired and is serving as interim superintendent through August 31.

At a February 20 special meeting, the board agreed to have Questar III BOCES, and specifically James Baldwin, its superintendent, assist it in the superintendent search. The alternatives–conducting the search themselves or paying an outside consultant–were considered too daunting and too expensive, respectively.

The BOCES assistance is free within its district. The only cost to the GCSD, said Mr. Baldwin in a presentation to the board, is the printing of a four-color recruiting brochure that “puts the district’s best foot forward.”

At its February 27 budget workshop the board was scheduled to pass a resolution formalizing the BOCES search assistance.

Mr. Baldwin left the meeting after his presentation, and the board discussed some elements of the search process that BOCES would need in order to start. For example, while some board members are interested in a part-time superintendent or a “shared” superintendent who would also be a school principal, the board decision was to seek a full-time superintendent this year, offering a two- or three-year contract. A three-year contract is standard in New York State.

Mr. Baldwin had discouraged the board from anything but a full-time superintendent. Only one school, the North Greenbush Common School District, has a part-time superintendent, he said. That school has only kindergarten and first-grade students. It “tuitions out” its other students to another district.

In the Wynantskill Union Free School District, he said, the superintendent is also the high school principal. In order to do that, Wynantskill has a waiver from the state Education Department that allows it not to have a full-time principal. Wynantskill has students in kindergarten through eighth grade; the district pays tuition to send students in grades 9 to 12 to other districts. Shared superintendents are not a common practice in this state, said Mr. Baldwin.

Germantown has 585 students in grades K-12, according to the district’s website.

The board also agreed to create a community advisory committee to assist it in the search. Such a committee generally includes representatives of all stakeholders in the district: parents, community members and faculty, staff and a student from the school.

In the scenario described by Mr. Baldwin, an advisory committee can, if the BOE wishes, screen candidates that have already been cleared by BOCES. Committee members use a template on which they grade interviewees’ responses to questions developed in consultation with BOCES. That information is collected and tabulated by BOCES and presented to board of education members before they interview candidates.

The advisory committee does not recommend candidates to the board, said Mr. Baldwin. “It’s the board’s prerogative to decide whom to hire and when,” he said, “and our job is to protect the prerogative of the board of education.”

The board also decided to advertise a starting salary range that begins at $120,000, for a superintendent who can start by August 31. Board member Lynn Clum had searched the Internet and found that the salary range for full-time superintendents in the region is $120,000 to $160,000. The GCSD’s current annual budget for superintendent is $145,736.

In his presentation, Mr. Baldwin outlined the search process and what BOCES’ role in it could be:

—Clarify with the school board what its expectations are for a new superintendent

—Work out a timeline for recruitment and interviews

—Work with the board on producing the brochure about the district

—Use the Internet for recruitment. “Newspaper advertisements are now passé,” he said. “We rely on an online system.”

—Review with the advisory committee and the board the do’s and don’ts of interviewing, such as the need for confidentiality until late in the process

—Develop interview questions with the advisory committee and the board.

Applications will go to BOCES, where staff reviews them and Mr. Baldwin checks references. Mr. Baldwin then meets privately with the board to review every application. From that meeting the advisory committee interviews several applicants and forwards its information to the board, which then typically interviews five or six candidates.

When the candidate pool is down to two or three finalists, the board can invite them to visit the district, meeting staff and talking informally with community members.

BOCES does not get involved in contract negotiations.

“The [superintendent] market is not particularly robust,” Mr. Baldwin noted. “We get 30 to 40 applicants now, a far cry from 15 years ago, when scores would apply.” Roughly a third of the applicants are disqualified “on paper,” he said, because they don’t meet the minimum qualifications. Another third have potential but are eliminated in the review process he goes through with the board. Some 10 to 15 candidates are subjected to the more thorough process.

James Campion, president of Columbia-Greene Community College, spoke from the audience about serving on the advisory committee that assisted in the hiring of Mr. Gabriel in 2006. Referring to his notes from that time, Mr. Campion said the committee, which consisted of about a dozen people, had interviewed 12 applicants in the process that Mr. Baldwin had described. “It was a lot of work,” said Mr. Campion. “A huge commitment.”

All board members and about a dozen residents attended the meeting. The next regular board of education meeting is Wednesday, March 13 in the cafetorium of the school, 123 Main Street. The start time for regular meetings has been changed to 6:30 p.m.


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