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April 07. 2013 10:22PM

Manchester superintendent search committee plans relaunch

MANCHESTER - Members of the city's Superintendent Search Committee are ready to hit the reset button on the search process later this week, when they convene for the first time since they were unable to reach a consensus last month on a new leader for the state's largest school district.

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at 5 p.m. in the district offices at 195 McGregor St.

Committee members are expected to discuss possible changes to the parameters of the search, including possibly increasing the salary, after one of three finalists withdrew from consideration for the job last month, and members were unable to reach agreement on the remaining two candidates.

"I don't know where we go from here, what we do next," said Ward 9 school board member Arthur Beaudry, a member of the search committee.

Nearly 80 people applied to replace Thomas Brennan, who is paid $165,500 a year and is leaving June 30 after four years. The field was narrowed to three finalists: Mark Toback, superintendent of schools in Hoboken, N.J., who withdrew his name from consideration before the school board interviewed him; Geoffrey Gordon, former superintendent of Port Washington, N.Y., and Vincent Cotter, retired superintendent of the Colonial School District in Pennsylvania.

Brennan is the highest-paid district chief in the state, but Mayor Ted Gatsas has said the team from PROACT, the search firm the city has contracted with, is looking to determine if a stronger pool of candidates would result if the posted $140,000 to $170,000 salary range were increased. According to a 2010 national survey by the Educational Research Service, the average salary for a district with 10,000 to 25,000 students was $178,786. (Manchester currently has just more than 15,000 students.)

Search Committee Chairman Ted Rokas, school board member from Ward 5, released a statement following his committee's failure to reach a consensus, saying, "At this point, we are going to revisit our position paper, review the feedback from the various community groups and stakeholders, and start over."

Rokas did not return repeated phone calls Friday seeking comment for this story.

Rumors surfaced last week that Gatsas was interested in having former city Mayor Robert Baines, a longtime principal at West High School, take the job on an interim basis, but as reported in yesterday's New Hampshire Sunday News, Baines isn't interested in the job.

Beaudry says he doesn't want to see someone brought in on an interim basis anyway.

"We need a leader, not someone who is going to come in here for a short period of time and leave - and who knows they are only here on a temporary basis," said Beaudry. "We need someone to step into the job who's ready to start taking things on, not keeping the seat warm for someone else in a few months."

Beaudry felt they already had the right candidate in Cotter, and was disappointed when his colleagues on the board didn't share his views.

"I thought he could do the job," said Beaudry.

Now Beaudry and the rest of the selection committee must begin the process anew. A revised timeline for selecting a superintendent has yet to be established.



pfeely@unionleader.com


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