Candidates for superintendent of the Saugerties school district must submit an application by next Monday, December 17. There is a target date of Tuesday, March 12 to offer the district’s first choice the position.
Ulster Boces has helped direct the search. Boces head Charles Khoury said this week that as many as 18 candidates have begun the application process, with interim superintendent Lawrence Mautone ready to throw his hat in the ring after serving as deputy superintendent in Saugerties for the past five years.
“Most of the applicants are [from] outside the district,” said Khoury.
Candidates are able to begin the process and stop to consider their answers at their leisure before completion. “We can see whether an application has been started or is in process,” said Khoury. “It’s probably a 20-to-30-minute exercise to finish the application because we ask some narrative types of questions. So somebody can start it and then come back and finish it multiple times.”
Plenty of qualified candidates are showing an interest in the district, Khoury added. “Just a quick look at those folks, they’re a cross-section of assistant superintendents and people who were in leadership positions around the state, but I haven’t even begun the process of making phone calls and checking references. I’ve e-mailed some people that started applications and in reviewing their resumes they look interesting, and I’ve encouraged them to complete the application.”
The application indicates an anticipated starting salary range of between $170,000 and $195,000 based on experience and training. The criteria indicate a wide range of qualifications for candidates to consider. One request is “a desire to become an integral part of the Saugerties community, including having a highly visible profile and becoming an active participant in community-related groups and activities. Residence in the surrounding area is encouraged.”
Other qualifications include a high level of professional experience in school administration, a commitment to innovative educational ideas, and a commitment to be a public advocate for the district’s students. Other qualities are still being culled from a public survey designed to generate feedback from members of the community.
As of December 10, 410 people had taken the survey. “I’ve done a few of the searches in similar communities, and that’s probably the highest number that I’ve seen,” Khoury said.
With the survey still active, the results are unlikely to be revealed until Khoury presents a report to the school board at a community forum in the high school library next Tuesday, December 18.
The survey includes questions about past experience in areas like working in a high-performing school district, a socio-economically diverse district, capital projects, special and alternative education, gifted education, and strategic planning. Skills such as public speaking, labor relations, school finance, special-education program coordination, and educational planning are also significant.
Beyond the professional criteria, the public is also being asked to consider a candidate’s personal characteristics, such as whether they feel living in or near Saugerties is important, how visible they feel a superintendent should be in the schools and community at large, and whether they have humor, wisdom or compassion.
After presenting his report this month, Khoury plans on returning again on Tuesday, January 8. “By the first board meeting in the new year, my plan is to have completed some reference checks, preliminary screening interviews, and to present to the board a kind of rank ordering of the candidates in terms of strengths vis-a-vis the characteristics the community has indicated are important to them,” Khoury explained. “And then it’s really up to the board where they want to go from there.”
What usually follows is a first-round screening interview with as many candidates as trustees would like to speak to. Three applicants are usually heard in a single night, a process Khoury said he expects would happen in the second half of January through the beginning of February.
Khoury said the schedule begins by figuring out when the new superintendent would officially begin the job and working backward from there. “So if we are looking at a July 1 start date, if a candidate is coming from outside the district and they’re presently an administrator, most administrative contracts call for a 60-day notice that they’re not continuing their employment,” Khoury said. “So that backs you up to May 1.”
To keep to that schedule, the school board would have to make an appointment some time in April. Contract negotiations would take place between the anticipated March 12 offer and the April appointment.
“When you get into contract negotiations, and that usually involves lawyers,” said Khoury. “And once you involve lawyers you could add a week or two. That just gives them wiggle room. It could be a very simple negotiation. They [the school board] could make an offer, an outline of a contract and the person could say yes, and it could be sooner. But I’ve been in situations where each party is represented by a lawyer and then the lawyers have to check language, and the turnaround can take a couple of weeks.”
The school board will also have to focus around that time on the budget proposal for the 2019-20 school year. A budget workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19, and an adoption vote on April 9. The spending plan then goes to the public on Tuesday, May 21, by which time the next superintendent will have been chosen.
“You want to get the selection of the superintendent done before they totally focus on getting their budget passed for the following school year,” Khoury said.
For more information, visit: www.ulsterboces.org/careers/saugerties-superintendent-search.