Published in the January 10, 2018 edition


WAKEFIELD — With the recent announcement by school Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith that she will retire on June 30, 2018, the School Committee is wasting no time setting in motion the process for selecting her successor.

Last night Labor Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Markham presented his group’s recommendations to the full School Committee with respect to how the selection process should play out. Ultimately, the subcommittee recommended a local screening committee of to handle the search and preliminary candidate interviews.

Markham said that the Labor Subcommittee had met twice to formulate its recommendation for a search and hiring process for the next School Superintendent. The labor group, consisting of Markham as chair and School Committee members Kate Morgan and Rob Tiro, looked at three options for possible approaches. Those were outlined in an exhaustive memorandum that Markham reviewed with the School Committee last night.

The first option would involve hiring a consultant to do a formal nationwide search and make recommendations to the School Committee. Markham reminded the committee that that was the approach used after Superintendent Joan Landers left and ultimately led to the hiring of Dr. Stephen Zrike. This approach, he said, can be lengthy and often involves hiring an interim superintendent. The cost for this approach can be in the range of $20,000, Markham added.

The second approach is more of a locally-driven process, Markham said, and is the one the Labor Subcommittee favored. In this approach stakeholders from the school community and the community at large form a screening committee to handle the search process and interviews of semifinalists. Finalist recommendations are sent to the full School Committee for public interviews. This process, Markham noted, can be accomplished in a few months as opposed to the professional consultant route, which can take as much as a year. It’s also cheaper. Markham estimated a cost of about $6,000 for ads, recruiting, printing, meetings and travel expenses for potential out of state candidates.

The third approach would involve the School Committee making an outright appointment, without involving a consultant or a screening committee. This was how the process was handled when Zrike left the job with very little notice. This approach worked well in that instance, Markham said, because the School Committee knew it had the ability to promote a highly qualified Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Kim Smith, to the Superintendent position.

Markham said that the Labor Subcommittee was recommending the second, locally-based option. He said that the subcommittee did not feel that the process needed to be lengthy, cost $20,000 or involve an interim superintendent. He envisioned a three-month process.

The subcommittee’s memorandum outlined the recommended composition of a nine-member screening committee as follows:

1. Chair of Labor Relations Subcommittee to serve as Screening Committee Chair.

2. One representative of the Wakefield Education Association, Unit A, selected by its president.

3. One representative of the Wakefield Paraprofessionals Association, Unit C, selected by its president.

4. One representative of the elementary school principals.

5. The Galvin Middle School principal.

6. One representative of the central office staff selected by them, excluding the School Business Administrator, who may be called upon by the School Committee to support its discussions.

7. One parent representative selected by a joint meeting of the elementary and middle school PTO’s from eligible names submitted.

8. One community-at-large representative selected by blind drawing of eligible names submitted to the School Committee.

9. One representative of Town Government selected by the Town Administrator. This town representative may be the Town Administrator.

Markham said that the subcommittee would welcome additional suggestions if anyone feels that another group should be represented.

He also reviewed the subcommittee’s suggested timetable, as set out on the recommendation memorandum.

• Jan. 9: School Committee hears recommendation of the Labor Relations subcommittee, discussed and votes to select a process and any or all of its components.

• Jan. 23: School Committee votes to approve qualifications and job posting details.

• Jan. 24: School Committee posts the Job Vacancy Announcement with application deadline of February 23.

• Feb. 1: Deadline for representative groups to submit names of its recommended member of the Screening Committee.

• Feb. 6: School Committee to hold Special Meeting to discuss final role of Screening Committee, amend timeline if necessary, and appoint Screening Committee members.

• Before Feb. 23: Screening Committee shall host at least one parent and community forum that has been properly and publicly advertising and promoted.

• Between Feb. 23 and March 16: Screening Committee to meet, as it sees fit, to evaluate all applications, narrow down the total applicant pool to a number to be interviewed by them and be prepared to make its public recommendation for finalists to the School Committee.

• March 20: School Committee to publicly receive the names and qualifications of the finalists from the Screening Committee.

• Week of March 26: School Committee to host public, community informal gathering(s) for each finalist, and, as it deems, candidate site visits.

• Week of April 2: School Committee to hold public interviews of finalists

• April 10: School Committee to publicly deliberate and vote to appoint the next school superintendent, subject to successful contract negotiations.

• Between of April 11 and 16: Labor Relations subcommittee meets with the superintendent-elect to discuss and negotiate contract terms of employments, including compensation.

• April 17: School Committee holds Special Meeting to hear and discuss negotiated employment terms and to vote on final appointment, including the awarding of an employment contract to become effective July 1, 2018.

School Committee chairman Rob Tiro asked members last night for their thoughts on the subcommittee recommendation of the second, locally based search option. The consensus seemed to be in accord with the subcommittee recommendation but the full committee deferred a formal vote to a future meeting.

Last night, the School Committee tasked the Labor Subcommittee with creating a vacancy posting and job description.