Concord school board considers delaying superintendent search for lack of candidates

  • CHS principal Mike Reardon and interim superintendent Kathleen Murphy talk outside the main office at Concord High School. There is a wellness station at the entrance to the building, where everyone who enters has their temperature taken and can help themselves to gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. EILEEN O'GRADY / Monitor Staff

  • Kathleen Murphy

Monitor Staff
Published: 10/29/2020 11:25:43 AM

Concord School Board is considering postponing the hiring of a permanent superintendent for another year and keeping interim superintendent Kathleen Murphy in the position until June 2022. 

At the end of a special school board meeting held Wednesday to finalize the 2021 budget, board president Jim Richards said that the school board is considering postponing their superintendent search, after hearing an update from New England School Development Council (NESDEC) that now is not a good time to hire because the coronavirus has led to a lack of candidates.

The Concord School Board was slated to begin the work of finding a permanent superintendent this fall to replace Murphy, whose one-year contract ends in June 2021. The new proposal is to delay the search process until the fall of 2021, keeping Murphy in the position for another year.

Richards said the district’s search consultants believe hiring is difficult right now due to COVID-19, because potential applicants are not looking to switch jobs or relocate. The NESDEC consultants told Richards they do not believe Concord will get a strong pool of applicants if it begins the search process now. 

“They’re concerned that we would be successful even after a search, to be able to hire a superintendent that met the expectations and the requirements that we had out there,” Richards said.

The Concord School Board had this problem back in May, when the two finalists the board had eyed to replace former interim superintendent Frank Bass withdrew their names from consideration, saying they needed to remain in their previous positions to help their districts navigate the pandemic. 

“The current environment is actually just as bad,” Richards said.

Board member Danielle Smith said that a search process would be a big task for people in the school community to take on right now, during COVID-19.

“The effort that was required to assemble the original team to continue the search this year seemed like a lot of extra pressure on teachers and administrators and business people out in the community, so that was another factor in talking about postponing the search for another year,” Smith said.

Board member Tom Croteau said that keeping Murphy on for another year would provide some consistency of leadership that has been lacking in the district for the past several years. Following the resignation of superintendent Terri Forsten in November 2019, Bass was in the job for eight months until Murphy took over in July.

“It is very important that the community knows that this board is very satisfied with the work of superintendent Murphy,” Croteau said. “We know there have been some tough decisions…the task has been tremendous to try and get not only kids back to school who want to be, and kids at home who want to be, but to give parents as much choice as possible."

The school board will discuss the issue at the next monthly school board meeting on Monday, and board members are asking community members to share their thoughts and give input at that meeting.

The other action to finalize the district’s $93.4 million budget for fiscal year 2021 was approved 8-0. After the budget evaluation, the local tax impact is projected to be  $13.19 per $1,000, which is a 0.53% decrease from the fiscal year 2020 budget.

Board members Gina Cannon, Barb Higgins, David Parker, Liza Poinier, Maureen Redmond-Scura, Croteau, Smith and Richards voted in favor of finalizing the budget.  Board member Chuck Crush, who was tuning in remotely via Microsoft teams, exited the meeting before the vote. 

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