LACONIA — Rows of folding chairs filled the expanse of the multipurpose room at Laconia Middle School on Wednesday night, where Ken DeBenedictis of the New England Development Council, who is conducting the search for a superintendent of schools to succeed Terri Forsten, hosted a meeting to sound members of the public.
Only one person attended — Heather Drolet, the mother of a pupil at Elm Street Elementary School who is an elementary school teacher in Corcord.
Dr. Philip McCormack is serving as interim superintendent for the current school year. It is anticipated a permanent replacement for Forsten, now the superintendent in Concord, will begin work next summer.
DeBendictis explained to Drolet that after advertising the position across the country, the next step in the selection process was to host a series of focus groups with the school administrators, school board, teaching staff and general public. The groups were asked to respond to two questions, one about what background, characteristics and experience they preferred in a superintendent and another about what tasks and initiatives they expected the superintendent to address.
The views expressed by the focus groups, DeBendictis said, would be melded into a profile, which would be matched against the qualifications of the applicants to winnow the field of candidates. He anticipated that after an initial round of interviews, between three and five candidates would be recommended to the School Board for a final round of interviews. The applications close on November 11 and DeBendictis anticipated that an appointment would be made shortly after the Christmas holidays.
"You are the voice of the community," DeBendictis told Drolet, who stressed that she favored a "progressive" superintendent, with "a willingness try outside of the box strategies, including applying technology in the classroom and offering "real world experience", such as job shadowing. In particular, she preferred a superintendent with teaching experience, who would be "a good listener" and "be pro-active rather than reactive."
Drlet also said that the superintendent should have a strong presence in the community with the ability to form partnerships with civic organizations and private businesses. She underlined the importance of engaging parents in the education of their children and the lives of their schools. Referring to the gap between "haves and have-nots", Drolet said the superintendent should strive to ensure equitable access to all learning opportunities. Finally, maintaining sound relationships between the administrative staff and classroom teachers and encouraging professional development is the responsibility of the superintendent.
DeBendictis told Drolet that if 75 people had attended the focus group he would have expected to hear all of the points she made and commended her for speaking on behalf of the community.