School Committee candidates weigh in on superintendent search process
Each candidate in the race for the two School Committee seats was asked to answer the following question in 200 words or less:
There are a lot of residents who were not happy with the process of hiring a new superintendent including a member of the search committee. Can you tell me how you, if elected, Re-gain the trust of these unhappy residents. Do you think things should have been done differently with the search and hiring process for a new superintendent, and if so, how?
Belmont has not chosen a new superintendent in ten years, so of course there’s room for improvement. Having been part of the process, I know better than most where we might improve. For example, by the time the Screening Committee met, decisions that would shape the pool of candidates were already made. This limited the impact of any input given afterwards. I think it would have been better to collect community input at an earlier stage in the process.
As for the public perception of the process, the difficulty in managing a complex process and simultaneously disseminating clear information on it was apparent. Once the Screening Committee’s work was done, it became clear that not even all the Screening Committee members were clear on their roles. If I were elected to the School Committee, I would look for ways to more efficiently share and preserve detailed records of our decisions and their basis. I would also work to set the expectations of all of those involved so who has the final authority on each decision is clear and being heard and getting a certain outcome are not confused.
I cannot comment on the process of searching for and hiring the superintendent, because I have not been directly involved. I did attend the School Committee’s interviews and citizens’ forums with the candidates. I note that citizens raised a wide range of concerns at these forums and through the School Committee surveys. Although these priorities differed, our community expressed a common goal –to provide the very best educational experience for all our students.
We need to be mindful of this goal and commit to looking and moving forward together to achieve it. Our district is fortunate to have found a new superintendent in Dr. Geiser. I hope that our community will embrace Dr. Geiser and the opportunity that comes with a new administration - to examine our current practices and challenge many assumptions that underlie the way that we now run our schools to make our schools better for all students.
Undeniably, Dr. Geiser will have a difficult job to do here: the district faces a challenging budget situation in FY2024 and potentially beyond. As a community, we need to work together to ensure that the partnership is successful so that our students can continue to thrive.
I believe it's time for Belmont to come together and welcome Dr. Geiser as our new superintendent. Even when we don't agree, we still have to move forward and cooperate as a team. During the process, our residents showed they were willing to be vocal and listen to each other. This makes our community stronger. At the end of the day, we are still neighbors and friends and have a common goal of making Belmont better for everyone.
We had three excellent finalists. The public interviews and forums were just a small slice of a very comprehensive, rigorous, and thorough search and screening process. I also want to point out that Dr. Geiser is also a finalist for the superintendent position at Somerville. Had we taken more time putting the screening committee together, we might have missed out on her as well. I thought both the SC and the screening committee did an open and thorough search process, with a lot of opportunities for our community to participate and provide feedback. I heard the school committee weigh all these factors during their deliberations, and I ended up feeling very good about their ultimate decision.