In what may be sign of increased internal tension in the Woonsocket Education Department, some members of the School Committee have drawn attention to what they see as questionable procedures in hiring a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Robert Gerardi.
As members of the subcommittee in charge of spearheading the process, committee members Linda Majewski and Eleanor Nadeau are responsible for posting the job to recruit candidates on forums such as School Spring and Massachusetts Association School Committees, and choosing the outside group to make the final decision on a permanent hire.
The "search committee" will consist of 20 members of the public who Majewski and Nadeau have said will be representative of the various groups with a hand in the Woonsocket school system. This is the pair's second time implementing the procedure, which resulted in the hiring of Gerardi three years ago.
Critics, however, have claimed that the board which will choose Gerardi's replacement is being "hand-picked" and a recent decision to change the requirements for the Superintendent position without committee approval may result in a delay in the hiring process.
In an internal memo dated June 28, Gerardi explains "Ms. McGuire/Forcier notified me that she had concerns about the recent Superintendent's job posting. She said that she heard that several of the qualifications were changed without School Committee approval."
Gerardi goes on to state that after reviewing the posting for the Superintendent position which he responded to in 2008, he found there were changes in terms of employment, evaluation, and application process.
"Interestingly, under educational credentials on the original posting, the Qualifications preferred or in process included a Earned Doctorate in Education, Leadership or Related field and Certification, or eligible certification, in Pre K to Grade 12 Curriculum and Instruction were required, which is much more stringent than the current posting," he said.
According to the school committee's policy manual, the group must review and approve job specifications for vacant positions prior to the jobs being posting.
"This will need to be resolved at your next School Committee meeting if you are to keep your job search on the timeline that you have identified," Gerardi noted.
Committee members Vimala Phongsavanh and Anita McGuire Forcier have specifically questioned the addition of a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) requirement to the position. CAGS, they claim, is no longer used by most districts.
Phongsavanh and McGuire-Forcier first voiced displeasure with the proceedings when the subcommittee opted to hire an interim superintendent rather than allowing Director of Instruction, Administration, and Professional Development Marc Garceau to temporarily take on Gerardi's duties. Both voted against the last month and Phongsavanh questioned why candidates resumes were not being presented prior to a vote.
Garceau does not have his CAGS, so the additional requirement would effectively block him for applying for the full-time position.
As a result of the changes, the department's attorney recommended that the position be reposted to avoid a violation. The group has reportedly opted to vote on the changes at their next meeting scheduled for July 13.
Phongsavanh has also questioned how the search committee is being chosen.
"We have many, many requests to sit on this committee. Unfortunately, while we'd like to honor every request that we've received, we can't do this without having a search committee of 50 or 60 people," Majewski told members at the last meeting.
"What is the criteria to be on the search committee?" asked Phongsavanh. "How do you select them?"
"Basically the way we've set it up is we've had people from across the board," Majewski replied. In addition to having administrators on the search committee, "we usually like to have principals or assistant principals from elementary, middle school and high school. We look at our district leaders and community members, parents and parent groups," she said.
"But how do you select who makes the cut?" Phongsavanh continued.
"We look at the candidates and try to get people we know are involved," said Majewski.
Collette Trailor was confirmed for the interim position and will serve the district for the price of $538 a day until a permanent replacement is chosen.