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Residents Profile What They Want in the Next Schools Chief

Search firm: Greenwich is the "big stage with big issues."

Greenwich is a school district "that will motivate talented candidates," says consultant Bill Librera of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), the firm hired to recruit candidates as the town's next schools superintendent.

The final stages of HYA's Leadership Profile Development are underway with two community forums last night at and with a third this evening planned at at 7 o'clock. Hopefully, there will be more feedback from the community — ony 5 parents attended the Central Middle School forum.

If Greenwich residents can't attend the forum, they are encouraged to complete HYA's online survey, which will be available until Thursday, Jan. 12.

HYA is being paid $21,000 consulting fee plus expenses (such as site visits to candidates, advertising, etc.) to manage the search lead by HYA Chairman of the Board Bill Attea with Librera, a former New Jersey Commissioner of Education.

The elephant in the room

Longtime RTM member Steve Wilson asked Librera last night the question that is many residents' minds, "Is it reasonable to think that a qualified superintendent would be willing to come here?"

What's to love?

Another attendee, Jean-Jacques Illi, a 20-year resident of Greenwich with a first-grade son at who said he made a conscious decision to send his son to public school, helped to answer Wilson's question about the attractiveness of Greenwich.

Illi said that the lure of Greenwich is that it is a "vibrant community" with a "good geographical location" and "financial resources." Another selling point for Illi — the residents are "strong minded," so much so that he finds it "intellectually extremely rich. I love Greenwich - it is paradise."

Librera agreed stating the in Greenwich "you have opportunity." HYA is holding these forums to hear straight from stakeholders' mouths the strengths and challenges of the district.

Characteristics

Warm-hearted, stamina, a presence, abiity to communicate and collaborate, inspirational, consensus builder are just some of the traits and criteria that residents expressed as important.

Residents also said they want a strong manager who has the ability to develop a team and leaders as well as a track record in a comparable district. There were also nods when the word stability was mentioned as Librera said that "ongoing leadership that offers continuity" is another criteria staff and residents are seeking.

Librera said that the good news is that there is a definitely a consensus among the stakeholder groups and individuals that HYA has surveyed and interviewed so far.

HYA has conducted more than 900 searches nationwide and plans to catalog the data and information gathered through the leadership profile and deliver that data to the school board on Jan. 19.

Librera, who said that the firm will also seek out viable candidates through recruitment, projects that Greenwich super search should conclude by the end of March or the beginning of April which would give the selected candidate 60-90 days to give notice with a July or Aug. 1 start date in "paradise."

The new superintendent will replace Sidney Freund who left the district in August. Until his replacement is found, former superintendent Roger Lulow is the interim schools leader.

John Linsenmeyer January 10, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Well now, the "insiders" savaged Mrs Ponns Cohen in the last election for pointing out that the Emperor had no clothes (the snit-prone Dr Freund has now huffed off from his next job even quicker than he did from Greenwich) but maybe even the 'insiders' will stop searching the country for unsuccessful Superintendents (think the former State Commissioner, the former former chap from somewhere in New Jersey, etc) and just PROMOTE some successful, known quantity from our own staff right here in Town. Advantages: we'll know what s/he is like, we'll know that s/he is committed to - - guess what, 'insiders' on the Board? - - the GREENWICH schools based on years of working here, etc. So far, most of the decisions have been marked with the experimental insouciance of people spending Other People's Money (the same insouciance that led to idiocies like the useless 'new' Glenville School which was useless as soon as it was built and had to be rebuilt at huge cost).
ListenUp January 10, 2012 at 07:36 PM
How many people showed up for this forum? Just the four people shown in the picture? That's a very poor turnout for something that was so heavily touted by the PTAs in town.
John Linsenmeyer January 10, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Perhaps it speaks well for the common sense of our townspeople, who have limited appetite for utter futility, i.e. talking to people who already know everything.
Bernard Schneider January 10, 2012 at 11:17 PM
John, With the passing of years, there is a marked downward trend in the number and quality of Superintendent candidates, nationwide. ( I can explain at greater length, if you ask, or you can check the Net.) To the extent that there are qualified candidates remaining, they can be selective about the Districts they choose to work in. From personal experience, the single most determining factor that a Superintendent considers is his relationship with the school board. In Greenwich, a potential candidate will see a school board under the total control of two individuals. He will see the Democratic Party Chairman who, for no particularly good reason except an ego trip, savaged Superintendent Lulow for attending a cocktail party with friends. He will see the Republican Party Chairman, who for no particularly good reason except an ego trip, announced to his appointees that he expected them to vote in accordance with his wishes, not for what they could believe would be in the best interests of the children of the District. It's just the Greenwich way of doing business. Pity the children. Bernard Schneider
John Linsenmeyer January 10, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Why am I not surprised? But thanks very much, Mr Schneider, for a concise explanation of what I suspected all along, both from the fact that the Board is essentially appointed by the two Town political party Pooh Bahs and from the savaging of Mrs Ponns Cohen both by the pols and by their acolytes in the PTAs who seem to think the public school administrators walk on water. I don't see much chance this will change, so I will merely thank God that my only descendant in the system is spending her formative years at Riverside School which seems well-run under a long-serving, un-pompous principal and is a happy and productive place.
Bernard Schneider January 11, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Hi John, Thanks for listening. Let me continue. The truth, after all, is rather simple; it is just an unfortunate truth in Greenwich that nobody wants to look at what goes on outside of Greenwich to develop a frame of reference Running a school district is not sandbox. A school district is a $140 million business operation, requiring multiple skills from hand-holding to finance. It is a full-time job requiring meetings here, there and everywhere, most particularly in Greenwich. A Superintendent is likely out of the house 3 or 4 evenings every week. All those self-interested constituencies claiming a direct connection to truth and justice. To put up with this, Superintendents are a tough crafty breed. So what happened in Greenwich? I will assure you that MPC was a piece of cake compared to typical situations on fractious boards. In particular, Dr. Freund could count on 6 out of 8 votes on every issue, which is all that counted; and he was so favored that he was guaranteed two parties falling over themselves to nominate congenial candidates. On most contentious boards, Superintendents may not even be able to get a majority for their programs.
Bernard Schneider January 11, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I will assure you that MPC was a piece of cake compared to typical situations on fractious boards. In particular, Dr. Freund could count on 6 out of 8 votes on every issue, which is all that counted; and he was so favored that he was guaranteed two parties falling over themselves to nominate congenial candidates. On most contentious boards, Superintendents may not even be able to get a majority for their programs. A Superintendent who has advanced and maintained his career as Dr. Freund has a strength of will that you would only encounter in a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I have known many, and like them or not, none of them have anything in common with the benevolent patriarch/matriarch they may convey to the world. SO WHAT HAPPENED? The reality, which is now apparent, is that Dr. Freund (who I had much liking for), simply burned out, much as teachers do. He just didn't want to do the job anymore. He may have thought that Greenwich would renew him, and he may have thought that his old district, Greenburgh 7 would be more amenable ( it probably was, but not enough). One does need to give him his due for all the great contributions he made over his career, and what he could have accomplished in Greenwich. But it was not to be. That his convenient excuse for leaving involved MPC, and that the whole system indulged itself in the weirdness of the recent electoral cycle takes us back to the expression "it is what it is."

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