Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Superintendent search closed to the public

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge Van White, president of the Rochester school board - FILE PHOTO
  • Van White, president of the Rochester school board
Selecting superintendents for Rochester’s schools has become something of a ritual over the last 10 years. And some form of public engagement is often part of the process. You may remember the search that led to the selection of former superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard:  public forums, writing your questions for the candidates down on index cards, and the community buzz about the process.

The Rochester school board spent a good part of yesterday interviewing superintendent candidates to replace Bolgen Vargas and will continue with interviews tomorrow, but don’t expect much in the way of public involvement.

This has been a closed search; the names of the candidates are not available to the public and the interviews are being conducted behind closed doors.

Board President Van White says that the school board decided to heed the advice of the search committee, which cautioned against opening up the process to the public. Revealing the names of candidates would almost certainly narrow the pool of applicants. Some of the most desirable and highly qualified candidates would be scared away because they won’t risk souring their relationship with their current employer, according to the search firm.

White says that even though he expects the board will face criticism over the lack of transparency, that the caliber of candidates that the board has interviewed so far seems to validate the firm’s advice.

“The interviews were excellent, I can’t recall ever interviewing a better group of candidates,” White says. “I was really impressed.”

The board has received more than two-dozen applicants and that pool has been cut in half. A second round of interviews within the next week or so will reduce the number of candidates to a few finalists, White says, and the board will make its selection probably by June 30.

He says that he's impressed by how knowledgeable the candidates are about the challenges facing the Rochester City School District, though he wouldn’t elaborate. But it’s not hard to guess, since the district’s low achievement record, among the lowest in country when it comes to graduating black boys, is well known.

And it wouldn’t take much more than a few online searches to see that the next superintendent will step into a job that doesn’t have a history of happy endings.

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