Letter: Longer, wider search for new school superintendent

Longer, wider search for new school supt.

To the editor:

With the hiring of a new superintendent of schools, the city of North Adams has the opportunity of a generation to make a difference in education in the city.

Excellent schools are the number one criteria that families and businesses consider when they are looking to relocate to a new community. While the city currently has many excellent teachers and dedicated staff, the practice of hiring from within the system has created an atmosphere that is content with the status quo, and reluctant to reach out to the new and dynamic ideas that pervade education today. The absence of a curriculum coordinator has exacerbated the situation and caused a lack of continuity and innovation where it is most necessary.

The numbers speak for themselves. By any measure the North Adams schools are consistently in the lower third of schools across the state in all subjects and grades. There is a tendency to blame this on the economy, the scarcity of decent-paying jobs, lack of parental involvement and home situations, but these are all just excuses. Some of the most successful schools are dealing with the same problems that exist in North Adams. It is all about standards and innovation, a willingness to explore new ideas and the ability to think outside the box.

Mayor Alcombright has said that this hire is most important for the future of the schools and the city, and he is correct. The entire community needs to step up and involve themselves in this decision. A group of citizens has been appointed to the search committee, and it is worth noting that three quarters of them are connected in some way to the North Adams school system. The net for that group should have been cast more widely to include businessmen, developers, Realtors, social agencies and concerned parents, people with a vested interest in the community, who are not essentially hiring their own boss or colleague. There must be an open, transparent and wide ranging search.

Perhaps most importantly the search calendar time frame is simply too short. There needs to be a thorough analysis of the existing issues in the North Adams School District, and then the search committee needs to hire the best qualified candidate who can find solutions that work. This cannot be done in two months time.

Therefore, I would ask the School Committee to seriously consider extending the search, broadening the committee and hiring a private firm to help conduct the search for the next superintendent of schools for North Adams.

Hulda Hardman Jowett, North Adams


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