School Committee Sets Standards for Haverhill’s Next Superintendent

School Committee members on Thursday approved a list of criteria that will guide the search for Haverhill’s next superintendent, and they set the make-up of the panel that will choose the final candidates.

The only question remaining is who has the authority to select the search committee members -- the mayor or the School Committee.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he would seek the advice of City Solicitor William D. Cox after consultant Michael Gilbert said the School Committee should choose the search committee.

No matter who winds up making the decision, Fiorentini said his priority is clear.

“We want to choose the greatest superintendent of all time,” he said.

The city contracted with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to help in the search to replace Superintendent James F. Scully, who will retire at the end of this school year. Gilbert is the MASC representative assigned to work with the city.

Gilbert said state law gives School Committees the sole responsibility for hiring their community’s superintendent. It is only logical for the School Committee to choose the search committee, he said.

After a series of focus groups attended by teachers, administrators and community members as well as nearly 500 responses to an online survey, Gilbert compiled a set of traits that will be used to recruit, screen and interview candidates.

“The message I got from the focus groups and survey was very consistent across the board,” Gilbert said.

Participants said they want someone who is:

  • A dynamic, motivated leader
  • Experienced in developing and implementing curriculum
  • Familiar with long-term planning and goal-setting
  • Experienced in developing and implementing a budget
  • Able to define and identify good teaching
  • Possessed of an understanding of special education
  • Experienced with social emotional learning
  • Skilled in communication and dealing with politics
  • Able to demonstrate a tack record of valuing equity among schools, staff and students

School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti noted the criteria list did not include a history of stability or longevity in an administrative position.

When he retires, Scully will finish his seventh year at the helm of the Haverhill school district. That compares with a state average of about three and a half years, Gilbert said.

Member Shaun P. Toohey said he wants the next superintendent to stay long enough to turn the school district around.

Fiorentini agreed that the next superintendent should be willing to commit to the district.

“I know what I’m not looking for: someone who’s going to stay three years to boost his pension,” the mayor said.

Committee President Gail Sullivan said she is more concerned with finding someone with a track record of proven success in improving a school or district.

Gilbert warned the School Committee not to expect an avalanche of applications, saying there is a lack of candidates statewide. He predicted the search will result in 35 to 40 applicants, with 25 or 30 qualified to participate in interviews with the search committee, which will whittle the pool of candidates to a final batch of three to five.

The search committee will number 17 members and will include parents, community members, three School Committee members, teachers, students, and administrators.