MANCHESTER — School board members met in non-public session Thursday night in the administrative offices at Manchester High School West, interviewing three finalists for the job of superintendent of the state’s largest school district.
Board members planned to vote on a new superintendent before adjourning Thursday night, but as of 8 p.m. no vote had been taken.
More than 150 people attended a community question and answer forum Wednesday night featuring the three finalists — current Manchester co-superintendents Amy Allen and Jennifer Gillis, and John Goldhardt, executive director for school leadership and performance with the Salt Lake City school district in Utah.
All three finalists requested their interviews with the school board be held in non-public session, school board clerk Angela Carey said Thursday.
Bolgen Vargas was hired as superintendent in September 2016. In January, he surprised school board members, Mayor Joyce Craig, students and parents when he announced he would resign from the position. April 30 was his last day on the job. Vargas never revealed his reasons for leaving.
In March, school board members voted to hire the firm McPherson & Jacobson LLC out of Omaha, Neb., as consultants to oversee the superintendent search. School officials said the search drew responses from 11 candidates.
Allen and Gillis have been serving as co-superintendents of Manchester schools since May 1.
A team from the consulting firm met with community stakeholders over a two-day period in March, soliciting feedback and characteristics they want in a new superintendent.
In response to the question, “What are the issues the new superintendent should be aware of as he or she comes into the district?” feedback received included:
• The new superintendent should be willing to challenge the status quo regarding funding and be a champion for his or her initiatives by attempting to get increased funding rather than just saying there is inadequate funding.
• A prevailing issue stated by most stakeholder groups is communication. A perceived lack of follow-through on decisions and lack of transparency around decisions erodes confidence in the efficacy of those decisions.
• People perceive that there is some real dysfunction on the Board of School Committee. The Board members challenge each other rather than collaborating to address the issues.
In response to the question, “What skills, qualities and characteristics will the new superintendent need in order to be successful in Manchester city schools?” feedback received included:
• Manchester stakeholders want an excellent communicator who builds trust with the staff and community and who promotes opportunities for communication between and among schools, parents, and all groups within the community.
• The new superintendent needs to be student centered, to understand and use data, and be clear and transparent in presenting that data and rationale for decisions. He or she must clearly articulate how those decisions support educational excellence and educational equity throughout the district.
• The new superintendent must commit to lead the District for five or more years. Stakeholders desire an energetic leader who wants to build a career in the district.
• The stakeholders want an apolitical leader with intestinal fortitude who is not afraid to do what is right for all children. The new superintendent must be capable of building a winning team within the school system.
• The new superintendent should be someone who can build on the work done by the previous superintendent combined with a vision for excellence who can break that vision down into doable steps.