PLAINFIELD, NJ - Only around thirty community members turned out for the input session run by search consultant Gwen H. Thornton of the New Jersey School Boards Association on Thursday evening at Plainfield High School. The purpose of the meeting was to collect feedback from the public for members of the Board of Education as they conduct a search for a new superintendent for the district.
Residents voiced concern about the fact that the meeting wasn't being recorded, and the low turnout. Robocalls and emails had gone out to parents about the meeting, Thornton said, in addition to an article that appeared in TAPinto Plainfield and posts on the district's Facebook page.
"This room should be filled, standing room only," one resident said.
"My fear is that we have to rely on a Board that is fragmented," David Graves said, to fill the position.
Thornton noted there will be a transitional period in response to a question about assuring the continuum of the work Interim Superintendent Dr. Ronald Bolandi has done.
"I think the general consensus is that Dr. Bolandi has come in and really put the school system on an excellent path. A lot of money has been invested, there are new programs, teachers have been trained. We've built a wonderful foundation," Dr. Inez Durham said. "I think the Board really needs to get some committment from whoever they hire, that that person will continue what we've started."
Parents suggested candidates who speak Spanish and understand the cultural diversity as important qualities to consider.
In addition to the feedback given in the three input sessions for the community, staff and administrators, a survey has been created to shape interview questions and candidate review documents. The questions are:
- What are the three most significant strengths and achievements of the Plainfield School District?
- What are the three most critical issues or concerns the district faces in the next 3 to 5 years?
- What personal qualities, professional experiences, or education expertise should the new Superintendent possess?
- How would you describe Plainfield's "core values and culture" to someone who is not familiar with the district?
- If you could ask the candidates one question during the interviews, what would that question be?
- Are there any other ideas or suggestions that you would like to share about the superintendent search that have not been addressed in this survey?
Thornton said superintendent contracts always start on July 1, as dictated by a state statute. They are the only employees who have a multi-year contract, serving for a minimum of three and a maximum of five years. In the early nineties, the New Jersey State Legislature eliminated tenure for superintendents, and went to multi-year contracts.
"So, the Board is looking to have someone in place by July 1 to enable the person to get acclimated and get school up and running for September," Thornton noted.
The advertisement for the job appears on the New Jersey School Boards Association's website. Thornton said it has also appeared on the association's Facebook and LinkedIn pages, in the Star-Ledger, and has been distributed to professional associations, colleges with superintendent institutes including Rutgers and TCNJ, and 21 county superintendent roundtables once a month.
There are three factors, per Thornton, that limit the number of out-of-state candidates:
- When the state eliminated tenure for superintendents, it also eliminated automatic reciprocity for out-of-state certificates;
- New Jersey's superintendent salary cap of $175,000 (for districts with a high school there is another $5,000);
- New Jersey First legislation that states if you want to work in a public school district, with some exceptions, you have one year to move into the state.
According to the job posting, completed applications are due by 5 p.m. on March 27. Thornton told those in attendance that, to date, she has 35 requests for applications from a variety of candidates, and considers it a pretty good response.
She said Board members have committed themselves to finishing this process, and completing it by July 1; however, they have also said that if they don't find the right person for the job, they will continue the process until they find the right person, "that it is too important a position to settle just to say you did it by July the 1st."
Superintendent searches, Thornton added, are confidential in the state of New Jersey. She said community members and staff will not be involved in the interview process. The new superintendent's contract will have to be approved by the Executive County Superintendent.
The session for administrators will be held on Monday, March 25 at 3:45 p.m. at Hubbard Middle Schoo, 661 West 8th Street.
You can provide feedback online through March 27.
- Community Survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/Plainfieldcommunity
- Staff / Administrators Survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/plainfieldstaff2019
Survey responses can also be mailed to: New Jersey School Boards Association, 413 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618.
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