Connecticut Post (Sunday)
Board lays out requirements for next schools chief
New Bridgeport superintendent could be chosen as early as June
BRIDGEPORT — The Board of Education plans to name a permanent superintendent as soon as early June, according to a recently unveiled timeline for selecting the city’s next schools chief.
In a board meeting Wednesday, consultants with McPherson & Jacobson, a firm hired to help coordinate the search effort, outlined what they described as an aggressive timetable for finding candidates to lead the state’s second-largest school district.
The firm intends to issue a survey and hold a series of virtual meetings later this month to learn the qualities students, parents, teachers and other members of the community want to see in their next superintendent, according to consultant Ralph Ferrie Jr.
Ferrie said his team of consultants will then use what they learn from the public and board members to narrow down the field of candidates to a list of finalists who will be interviewed by the board sometime in May.
“We’re going to identify the four or five absolute best candidates that meet the criteria that you shared with us this evening and that meet the criteria that we hear from your stakeholders,” Ferrie said.
Ferrie, who noted the timeline could be revised as the search moves forward, said the firm will start accepting applications for the administrative position on March 27. The application period will close April 27.
The board has been searching for a top administrator since former Superintendent Michael Testani announced last August that he would leave the district to run the neighboring school system in Fairfield.
Paul Laurence Dunbar School Principal Alyshia Perrin has been serving as interim superintendent since Testani’s departure. Perrin is eligible to apply for the permanent position, but has not publicly announced if she will seek the job.
“Your interim superintendent will be treated exactly the same as any other applicants,” Ferrie said in response to questions about Perrin’s potential candidacy.
After soliciting bids last fall, the school board voted last month to enter into contract negotiations with McPherson & Jacobson, a Nebraska-based firm that has about 100 consultants across the country, to coordinate a nationwide search.
Board members have said they chose the firm in part due to the company’s competitive price point. But the nine-member body has not yet released the details of the agreement, including the costs associated with the firm’s services.
Board Chair Bobbi Brown declined to discuss the terms of the contract Thursday and suggested filing a public records request for the document with the city. A Hearst Connecticut Media investigation last month found Bridgeport has a backlog of about 2,000 records requests.
Some are concerned the monthslong search process has dragged on for too long already. Former board Chairperson John Weldon, who resigned last fall after clashing with fellow members over the search, said the board may have limited the pool of candidates by waiting until now to accept applications.
“No superintendent worth their salt is going to be looking for a new job in the last two months of the school year,” Weldon said. “Superintendents that do are typically ones that have been let go by other districts or are otherwise unemployed and desperate for a job. This would be a disservice to Bridgeport.”
During the meeting Wednesday board members outlined their ideal superintendent candidates. Some said they are looking for an empathetic leader capable of working with parents and teachers while others said they would prefer candidates who have navigated difficult budget environments.
Above all, a majority agreed that the next schools chief should be someone who has experience working in a diverse urban school district like
“The next superintendent for Bridgeport has to be a true agent of change,” Vice Chair
Christine Baptiste-Perez said. “An actual educator with a background in teaching in the classroom, I think, is key.”