Thursday, August 02, 2007

Board Seeks Search Firm

The Board of Education will hold its work and study session Aug. 7 and as I understand what was said Tuesday, representatives of superintendent search firms will be present.

The time and place have not yet been announced.

Following the resignation of Schools Superintendent Paula Howard in June, the board appointed Peter Carter as interim superintendent. But the district must now look for a permanent superintendent.

A school superintendent search can take as much as a year and normally the board hires a consultant to guide the search. Some districts choose the New Jersey School Boards Association to conduct the search. On Tuesday, school board President Patricia Barksdale mentioned several other consulting firms that might do the search.

The NJSBA web site has a concise summary of what is involved in a search. Click here to read it.

Among the issues that both Carter and a permanent superintendent must deal with are the NJQSAC monitoring results, staff changes, possible state funding issues and the ongoing challenges of increasing parental involvement and improving student performance. Board meetings draw few attendees and little media attention these days. Public schools compete with private schools, charter schools and home schooling and in Plainfield the number of eligible students who are enrolled in public schools starts dropping off at middle school and tends to get even lower at the high school level.

Still, when we talk about public schools, we are talking about the fate of more than 6,600 students and their parents’ hopes for their future, as well as one of the city’s largest employers. The topic deserves more attention.

Plainfield was really short-changed when the New Jersey Schools Construction Corp. failed in its mission. Plans were abandoned for a new middle school when the state funding ran out way ahead of predictions. There are many other local school construction needs that are now in limbo.

Overall, the picture seems bleak. Right now, Peter Carter is the one to shed some light on how to proceed. Carter exudes confidence and seems more than willing to set direction during the transition. He brings a professional lifetime of school administration to the situation and has apparently already recommended important changes to benefit the district.

The coming weeks will be very important for the school district. Anyone who can spare the time should come out to Board of Education meetings and observe what goes on. It is a time of transition and the district needs lots of help to make the right decisions.

--Bernice Paglia


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