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Public feedback sparse on Merrimack Valley superintendent search

Public participation in Merrimack Valley’s superintendent search process has been very small despite several attempts by the search committee to gather community feedback.

In total, just 29 members of the public have attended seven public forums held with the purpose of gathering feedback on what qualities, qualifications and skills people would like to see in the next superintendent. Mike Martin, who has led the Merrimack Valley and Andover school districts since 1999, will step down at the end of the year. The search committee has already received a handful of applications from across the country and hopes to name Martin’s successor by February.

Lorrie Carey, a board member and chairwoman of the search committee, said the committee considers community input vital to the search process. In addition to his long tenure with the district, Martin is regarded as one of the top superintendents in the state, meaning the search for his successor won’t be easy.

It’s important that members of the public “share their hopes or their thoughts for the district moving forward, because whoever comes in is going to lead the district into the next decade,” Carey said.

The public forums are being led by Bill Landers, a consultant with the New Hampshire School Boards Association, which aids districts going through superintendent searches. So far, forums have been held at the high school and middle school and at elementary schools in Loudon, Andover, Salisbury, Penacook and Webster. Most of those forums saw fewer than five residents in attendance, not including school staff and teachers. The outlier was Tuesday’s forum in Webster, which 12 members of the public attended.

A forum will be held at Boscawen Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and a second forum will be held at Loudon Elementary School on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. People are not required to attend the forum in their hometown.

At the meetings, Landers is asking residents to weigh in on what educational and professional qualifications and leadership style they’d like to see from the next superintendent. Residents will also be asked to list priorities and points of focus for the district going forward.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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