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Reading School Superintendent Search Process: Bogus from the Beginning
On Election Day April 8, 2003, departing School Committee Chairman (attorney) William Griset "appointed" eleven Superintendent Search Committee members, including his sister-in-law Gael Phillips-Spence (Reading Advocate 04/17/03). When questioned about a policy that allegedly gives Griset sole authority to appoint such a school committee subcommittee, without public discussion or approval of the Reading School Committee, officials provided a bastardized version of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) 1996 recommended policy for creating subcommittees. When pressed, it was revealed that the Reading School Committee never approved this policy but that Griset seized the appointment power anyway.
Several obvious differences exist in the unapproved unofficial Reading subcommittee policy followed by Griset and those suggested by MASC (Reading Subcommittee "Policy," MASC 1996, 2003). Many qualified applicants for the search committee were not interviewed and the selection of Superintendent Search Committee members has not been in keeping with the spirit of the law and according to Reading School Committee policies.
Despite the questionable appointment process, the business of the Reading Superintendent Search committee has moved right along, undertaken at unposted meetings, in violation of the Open Meeting Law, and conducted before members were officially sworn in (See the 04/28/03 Superintendent Harutunian memo to the Reading Town Clerk re: oath).
The first officially posted meeting of the Superintendent Search Committee lasted in Open Session all of 3 minutes on May 15, 2003 in the Superintendent's Conference Room. . The committee voted to officially make Carol Grimm chairman (after serving in that capacity for over a month). A roll call vote was taken and the committee moved into Executive Session to review applications that had come in.
There was no discussion of the business the Superintendent Search Committee had done over the past month. The organization, selection of criteria, chairman, advertisements, directives, format for applications, schedules etc - it all happened in unposted meetings, behind closed doors.
According to the 04/24/03 Reading Advocate, School Superintendent Harutunian announced that the Superintendent Search Committee has a chairman, former Finance Committee Chairman Carol Grimm, but details on when and how she was chosen remain secret.
Consultant Lyle Kirtman of Future Management Systems was hired by the Reading School Committee to oversee the Reading Superintendent Search Process. Kirtman is the same consultant North Andover hired to locate a new superintendent. Reading Superintendent Harry Harutunian accepted the North Andover position, claiming he was pursued / recruited for the job in North Andover.
Lyle Kirtman was also the consultant used by Hamilton-Wenham School Committee in their search for a new superintendent January - May 2002. Hamilton-Wenham was recently cited by the Essex County District Attorney's Office for several violations of the Open Meeting law during their Superintendent Search Process. Awareness of the Open Meeting Law is not the problem; choosing to follow the Open Meeting Law is (SaIem News 4/9/03, Behind Closed Doors).
Community input has been a charade. The first community input forum 03/27/03 was attended by only two individuals and the second, 04/29/03, was attended by approximately 6 community members and 3 school committee members (Sue Cavicchi and newly elected members John Carpenter and Rob Spadafora). According to a memo from Superintendent Harutunian, Carpenter and Spadafora also were scheduled to meet privately for a half hour with Kirtman at 6 PM before the community input session (Harutunian 04/22/03 Superintendent Leadership Profile notice). Many parents did not receive until April 28, the day before the second input session on April 29, their Harutunian invitation (dated 04/22/03) to attend a meeting with the consultant.
A Superintendent Leadership Profile apparently was already created before the second community input session was held (Harutunian 04/22/03 Superintendent Leadership Profile notice). This leadership profile has yet to be discussed in any public meeting.
Reading Residents deserve an open process in selecting their next School Superintendent, starting with the selection of members of the Superintendent Search Committee. Instead, it seems as though the selection of the next Reading school superintendent is being railroaded by the present superintendent and his supporters.
The Reading School Superintendent Interview Process Continues Behind Closed Doors
After approximately 50 applicants (allegedly) had been screened, Reading's Superintendent Search Committee held (in executive session) interviews of superintendent candidates in the Superintendent's Conference Room on May 19, May 21 and May 22. The Search Committee plans to present 4 finalists to School Committee May 27 for them to interview in public.
Questions continue to be raised about the secretive process and absence of any evidence the School Committee has been following policy. Complaints have been filed with the Middlesex District Attorney. The most recent "policy" supposedly being followed is a version of a 1987 Reading School Committee Process for Selecting a Superintendent. Again, many discrepancies exist between the ongoing search process and the 1987 "policy" version. It appears that the School Committee and its subcommittee are currently doing whatever they want; the public be damned.
After interviewing the three finalist candidates for the school superintendent position on May 29 and 30, the Reading School Committee voted to continue to consider candidates Patrick Schettini and Patricia Ruane. Some School Committee members will go on site visits next week.
05/27/03 - Superintendent Search Report [.mp3 audio, 3.21 MB download]
Superintendent Search Committee Chairman Carol Grimm describes the closed door process the School Committee Subcommittee followed to arrive at the three finalist candidates: Reading Associate Superintendent Dennis Richards, former Lexington Superintendent Patricia Ruane and Natick Assistant Superintendent Patrick Schettini (formerly Assist. Principal at Reading Memorial High School).
Not only did the Reading Superintendent Search Committee create the "policy" and process they followed as they went along but, from Chairman Grimm's description, that process appears to have been in direct conflict with existing Open Meeting Law.
Regarding Search Processes and Executive Sessions, the Middlesex District Attorney's Open Meeting Law Guidelines" August 1993, p. 34:
"...an executive session may be permitted during the preliminary stages, prior to selection of semi-finalists, under exemption (7) and the privacy law, G.L. c. 214, S 1B. In either case, only the actual consideration of candidates may be conducted in executive session: other matters, such as the hiring process, criteria for selecting candidates, or recruiting strategies must be discussed publicly."
Reading's new Superintendent may in fact turn out to be an efficient, honest educational professional but the costly, secretive, closed-door process used to select him was highly suspicious and unfortunate.
Welcome Patrick Schettini to the position of Superintendent of Schools in Reading, Massachusetts!
Hopefully you will bring a breath of fresh air to the town of Reading, along with honesty, intelligence, integrity, tolerance and a genuine respect and concern for the children and citizens of the community.
Now is the time to conduct an impartial, independent, outside forensic audit of the Reading School Department. Only an extensive, comprehensive investigation (similar to that experienced by the Reading Municipal Light Department) can insure that the Schettini administration will not be tainted by the questionable actions and practices of the past.
Please right-click, "Save Target As" to download the linked files on this page.
Superintendent Search Screening Committee, 1995 - 05/22/95 School Committee minutes describe Screening Committee members and the process of reducing the applicant pool to the 6 semi-finalists recommended for School Committee interviews. Beverly Assistant Superintendent Harry Harutunian was chosen for Reading School Superintendent position.
At that time, Beverly High School Principal Keith Manville served on the Reading Search Committee that recommended Harutunian (his boss) be offered the position of Reading School Superintendent. Reading resident Manville currently is Superintendent of Schools in Saugus, Massachusetts.
Peabody Superintendent Search -Peabody uses patience and their own resources to find a new school superintendent. The $20,000 that would have gone for a superintendent search consultant can now be put towards a teacher's salary. "I have not found that getting an outside agency to conduct the search has yielded any better results than if we did it in-house" (Salem Evening News 05/06/03), quoted from David McGeney, Peabody School Committee.
Applications for the successor to Peabody Superintendent James Gaylord are due in mid-August, interviews taking place in late August / early September and final selection in October. Salary is advertised between $125 and $140,000 (a major increase over Gaylord's $105,000 ). Peabody hopes to attract, according to committee member Dave McGeney, "an all-star" with this salary (School Committee outlines superintendent search, Salem News 07/03/03).
Hamilton-Wenham School Committee conducts illegal closed meetings (Salem News, 04/09/03). Essex County district attorney's office finds school committee repeatedly misrepresented reasons for moving into executive session during their School Superintendent search process last year.
Why is this important to Reading?
Well, numerous blatant violations in Hamilton-Wenham occurred while working behind closed doors with superintendent search consultant Lyle Kirtman (Future Management Services), the same search consultant Reading hired to replace Superintendent Harutunian.
Business as usual?
Hamilton-Wenham School Committee/Open Meeting Law: Salem News 02/07/03 Complaint with 04/02/03 Opinion by Essex County Assistant District Attorney Tom Donovan. [.pdf download, 189 KB]