Search for ACSU leader narrows

MIDDLEBURY — The search for a new Addison Central Supervisory Union superintendent will kick into high gear this week, as a screening committee this Thursday will identify applicants it deems worthy for interviews in anticipation of recommending two or three finalists to the ACSU board next month.
It’s a process expected to culminate in the ACSU board’s selection of a new superintendent on March 14, after the finalists have toured district schools and met with local students, parents, teachers and administrators.
“We have a solid group of candidates,” screening committee Chair Peter Conlon of Cornwall said on Thursday.
“The process, so far, is going very well.”
The 12-member screening committee is made up of 12 folks from the ACSU community, including teachers, central office administrators, support staff and school board members. The panel is receiving help from consultant Robert Stevens, a former principal of Mount Mansfield Union High School and former executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association.
Stevens and the committee have been working since last November on a search for a new superintendent in the wake of the departure last June of Lee Sease, whose contract was not renewed by the ACSU board. Gail Conley is currently serving as interim superintendent.
The ACSU board has agreed to offer a salary range from $112,000 to $117,000 per year and a three-year contract. The position currently pays $110,000, which happens to be the average salary for superintendents in Vermont, according to Stevens.
Candidates for the job had until early January to apply for the ACSU job through SchoolSpring, an employment website for education professionals. Stevens declined to disclose exactly how many candidates had declared interest in the post, indicating such a number could be misleading and not reflect the quality of applicants.
“The number doesn’t mean much,” Stevens said.
But Stevens acknowledged that school districts nationwide have been seeing a dearth of applicants for education leadership posts.
“We are all facing a shortage,” said Stevens, who has helped coordinate several principal and superintendent searches in Vermont during the past few years. “I am nervous about the quantity and quality of (applicants) coming into the workforce right now.”
Stevens explained that many top school administrators are reaching retirement age, and there are not a lot of qualified applicants waiting in the wings to take those jobs. Superintendents often work long hours with a lot of evening work, sometimes with multiple school boards.
Still, Stevens is optimistic the ACSU will land a very good superintendent, who will face a challenging agenda during the next few years. The individual will be accountable to nine different school boards, shepherding the supervisory union through a period of tough budget cuts to reflect declining student enrollment while leading a broad discussion on possible consolidation of school governance and resources.
The ACSU’s candidate screening committee has thus far met three times. At its last gathering, committee members discussed potential questions to pose to interviewees and how to introduce them to the ACSU communities. This Thursday, Feb. 9, the panel will identify the candidates it wants to interview, a process likely to take place over a full afternoon, probably on Feb. 16, according to Conlon. The top few candidates will then be referred to the full ACSU board for more extensive interviews with community participation on March 14. Conlon said the ACSU board could offer the job to its top choice that evening.
“That will be a big day,” Conlon said.
Meanwhile, the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union has a 15-person search committee seeking applicants for a superintendent vacancy in that district when Evelyn Howard leaves this June.
Consultant Ray Proulx, a former Vermont superintendent, is assisting the search committee. The committee during the next few days is expected to recommend a list of semifinalists for selection of a few finalists by Feb. 13, with the expectation a new superintendent will be hired in March.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent

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