School board looks for guidance in replacing Title
Updated 1:47 am, Thursday, February 18, 2016
A search for good advice was on the agenda Tuesday night as the Board of Education heard suggestions on how to handle the process of hiring a new superintendent for the town’s schools.
Following David Title’s announcement that he intends to step down as superintendent Aug. 1, the school board began setting a strategy to find his replacement.
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, recommended the board hire a consultant to oversee the process versus the administration conducting the search in-house.
“I’m not here to push any particular service that does this type of work,” Rader said, noting that CABE is one of the three widely used consultants in the state for superintendent searches. He said that regardless of whatever search process Fairfield might choose, he and CABE would still be available to help.
Rader said the search process also “helps a board bond, and hopefully brings it closer to the community … I know some look at this whole process with dread and there is a lot of work to be done, (but) in the end, hopefully, if everything goes right, things will be better for the district.”
He said the board should expect to spend at least $20,000 on the process, and that it would take five to six months to complete, plus another three months for a selected candidate to give notice to his or her current employer.
He said it may be prudent for the district to hire an interim superintendent.
Board members had a few questions, including Donna Karnal, who said she was familiar with the consultant process.
“For a living I vet search firms,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”
She asked, since there are several searches for school superintendents underway elsewhere in the region, what the options are for keeping candidate exclusivity presented to Fairfield.
Rader said exclusivity would be a matter to discuss with the consultant, but noted the firms work for the school district and not individual candidates.
“Some firms have been known to move people around,” he said, noting they’re known to have a “stable” of candidates that they offer as candidates multiple times.
Asked about candidates from out of state, Rader referenced his “good friend” Elliott Landon, superintendent in Westport, who began in Ridgefield and later worked in New York before returning. Landon is retiring from the Westport post at the end of the academic year.
“Because of the culture in Connecticut it’s sometimes a better idea to find somebody who’s aware of it, who perhaps has dealt with the culture,” Rader said.
“Everybody wants a superintendent that can walk on water,” Rader said. “We haven’t found one yet ... but there are certain things you might want to think about looking for,” depending on the needs of Fairfield.
“I would very strongly urge you to work as hard as you can behind the scenes to end up with a 9-0 decision,” he said regarding approval of the final candidate for the job. “You’re asking people to change their careers drastically … They want some kind of security besides a contract that the board isn’t going to flip.”