President Obama is a closet Muslim. Former President Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened. The Windsor Board of Education conspired to hire its interim Superintendent in secret.
You know, politics is a heck of a lot more interesting when there is a conspiracy to focus on instead of the real facts at hand. Let’s be honest, most of the day-to-day business of running a town (or a country) is pretty boring. I dare anyone to sit in on one of my Board of Education Finance Committee Meetings and feel their pulse quicken. But unfortunately, in today’s Internet age, when anyone with a computer now has a platform to have their opinions heard – no matter how uninformed or misguided – what used to be just rumor whispered among a few, becomes “fact” to many. And these misguided “facts” cause harm.
It’s unbelievable what has transpired in the last month since the Windsor Board of Education started negotiating with Dr. Ernest Perlini to take the place of our outgoing superintendent Betty Feser. For those who have been reading the news, they’re aware that Superintendent Feser is leaving us to go to Milford and Windsor must hire a temporary (interim) superintendent to keep the chair warm and help keep the ship on coarse until we can find our next long-term superintendent. (I refuse to use “permanent” since the days of a town having a 30-year superintendent are long past.)
The challenges facing Windsor are many. First, if we want to do the hiring process right for our next long-term superintendent, chances are we will not identify a new superintendent until at least the fall. This fall is our municipal elections. Knowing that many quality candidates would be leery of applying for a job not knowing who their bosses will be means Windsor should be planning on employing a temporary superintendent probably at least until next year at this time. This situation differs from the typical 3-6 month interim superintendent assignments that are usually out there.
Our second challenge is the fact that many other towns are in the same boat. The number of municipalities in Connecticut currently looking for a superintendent of their own is lengthy.
Third, you just can’t hire anyone. The person has to be certified by the State of Connecticut for the superintendent position. Very few people have this certification, so the pool from which to choose is pretty small.
So let’s add up our issues. We need a very long-term, interim superintendent and we’re competing with many other towns to find a good candidate from a very small pool of qualified individuals. Anyone who has ever studied business in middle school knows the laws of supply and demand. Just how many retired, state certified superintendents are out there looking for temporary employment? Add to the fact that Windsor needs one who can commit to serve for at least a full year and you can see that Windsor doesn’t have a lot of luxury to be choosy.
Now some members of our Board of Education and other members of our community have suggested that our Board President, School HR Director and other members of our Board have acted in secret to “anoint” Dr. Perlini to his new position. My colleague, Lucille Brown, has complained that we haven’t “discussed what we want from an interim.” My other colleague, Doreen Richardson, complained that we didn’t have a nationwide search for our interim superintendent, nor placed an ad in local newspapers looking for someone to apply for the job.
Truth be told, Windsor did not have months to debate what we want from our interim superintendent. Fact is, their job is not to initiate new reforms or major changes. They just have to steady the ship while we look for a new leader. Doing a national search would just be wasting taxpayer dollars. It’s doubtful that anyone not within driving distance from Windsor would be interesting in moving here for a temporary job and it’s highly doubtful that they would even have Connecticut certification! And as for local newspaper ads looking for an interim – it’s just not how interims are hired anywhere, at any town. It’s not where candidates look and shelling out hundreds of dollars for those ads would be another taxpayer waste.
Despite all of these challenges, Windsor has been lucky enough to find Dr. Perlini – a man with over 16 years of experience running Newington’s school system AND someone who has experience handling a reorganization of the town’s elementary school structure – something that Windsor might be facing in the coming year. It wasn’t like we had any other candidates for the job and that our phone was ringing off the hook with applicants. I am truly shocked that we were able to find someone as qualified and experienced as Dr. Perlini who was interested in the position.
Now, you can argue all you want about whether superintendents deserve to make the type of money that they do or whether retired educators who are collecting state pension should be allowed to go back to work while still collecting that pension. For the record, I can say I used to believe superintendents were overpaid, but after six years on the board I can say I have changed my mind. And with the pension issue, I think the rules need to be fixed to prevent so-called “double dipping,” but that is a state issue, not one a local board can fix.
When the Board starts its search for the next long-term superintendent it should (and will be) a national search. We will have many meetings to discuss the qualities and strengths we need to see in our next superintendent. The search process will be extremely open and you’ll see members of the public and business communities involved in the process. It promises to be protracted and painful, just like it was with Dr. Feser, but it will result in us finding the best fit for Windsor’s future. But on the bright side for you conspiracy theorists – that gives you lots of time to come up with new ideas.
Chris Watts is a Democrat who has served on the Windsor Board of Education for the past six years and is the former Vice-President. He chairs the Board’s Finance Committee.