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April 08. 2013 11:55PM

Manchester school board decides it could pay superintendent up to $190,000

MANCHESTER - The Board of School Committee has agreed to pay a new superintendent as much as $190,000 as it renews its search for a top leader for the school district.

At its meeting Monday, the board voted 12-2 to raise the salary range to $160,000 to $190,000. The board had not disclosed the previous salary range, but board members have indicated that $160,000 was the upper limit.

Late last month, the board rejected the finalists brought to the city for interviews by the superintendent search subcommittee after a months-long process.

Ward 5 board member Ted Rokas, the chairman of the search subcommittee, made the motion to raise the salary, along with several other proposals, after consulting with the head of the firm the district has hired to conduct the search.

"I asked what we need to do to get the top candidates, and these were his recommendations," Rokas told the board. "They have told us we could still get a new superintendent by the first week of June."

On the vote to raise the salary range, the only "no" votes came from Board member Art Beaudry, Ward 9, and board member Roger Beauchamp, Ward 12.

The board's search committee will reconvene Thursday, but Rokas said he wanted the full board to set clear parameters in order to move as quickly as possible.

The board also voted to make it a requirement that prospective superintendent candidates come from districts with at least 5,000 students. There was no such requirement in the previous round; all three finalists came from much smaller districts than Manchester.

The board also considered loosening the requirement that a superintendent, once hired, must live in Manchester, but this was referred to the Coordination Committee.

At the same time, the board voted to form a contingency committee that would line up potential interim candidates for superintendent, in case the process failed to yield a finalist by early June, when the current school chief, Thomas Brennan, steps down.

The debate over how to proceed with the search process was at times tense.

Beaudry suggested that the board again consider one of the candidates, Vincent Cotter, noting that he was willing to come to the district on a one-year trial basis.

"Before we start looking to reinvent the wheel and upping the salary. We already had a guy who will come in under the current salary range," Beaudry said.

At-Large board member Dave Wihby countered that it was time to move forward.

"We were all there," he said, referring to the board's interviews with the candidates. "Those weren't the best candidates for this district. We've go to move forward, and if it means raising the salary to get better candidates, that's what we have to do."

Mayor Ted Gatsas also backed raising the salary range.

"We shouldn't be settling and end up making a 30,000 dollar mistake," he said.

The board voted to create the contingency plan by a 13-1 vote.

The board voted 10-4 to require that the superintendent come from a district with at least 5,000 students, after first rejecting a higher minimum size of 9,000 students.

Beaudry said he was concerned that the size provision would exclude good candidates. "I don't think the size of the district you're in charge of makes you any less of a leader," he said. "In my profession, whether you're fighting a fire in New York or Manchester, you're still fighting a fire."

Gatsas said the most important quality in any superintendent is communication, but he agreed that the size of a district a candidate comes from is a factor.

"I would think size has something to do with it. I don't think anybody who takes over a company with 200 employees is going to communicate in the same way as a company with 3,000 employees," he said.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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