WOOD RIVER JCT. — Members of the Chariho School Committee wasted no time Tuesday in selecting a consulting firm to search for a new superintendent of schools, choosing J.E. Consulting of Litchfield, Conn., in a unanimous vote.
The other contender, the New England School Development Council, is a large, private, nonprofit group that helps school districts select superintendents.
Committee members reviewed the two proposals, NESDEC’s at $15,826 and J.E Consulting at $10,000. They agreed that J.E. Consulting, owned by Joseph Erardi, appeared to take a more personal approach to the search. They also noted that the firm had just completed a superintendent search in the East Greenwich School district, and would therefore already have a good idea of available candidates in the region and their qualifications.
As he did at the Feb. 11 school committee meeting, Chariho attorney Jon Anderson reminded members that time was short and they needed to act quickly.
“The reality is, we are not looking at the best of times. Districts are wrapping up their searches right now,” he said.
Anderson also stressed that the selection of a new superintendent would probably be the most significant action the committee would undertake during its tenure.
“This is the biggest thing you’re going to get, probably, in your term on this committee,” he said. “You do a budget every year. The last time you picked a superintendent was back in 2004.” The longtime superintendent, Barry Ricci, died on Dec. 22.
Richmond member Murat Dymov echoed the sentiments of other members in favoring J.E. Consulting.
“It felt like a more personal approach to us, to the needs of our district,” he said. Erardi, he said, "already sent a list of questions for us to look through … I feel we will be a more valuable, desirable client to the agency and maybe to him personally as well.”
After agreeing on the J.E. Consulting appointment, members said they would hold their first meeting with Erardi next Thursday. The meeting will be open to the public.
In other business, the committee discussed the district’s new proposed policy on school improvement teams. Mandated by the Rhode Island Department of Education as part of sweeping education reform measures, the teams, based at each of the district’s seven schools and headed by each school principal, will comprise faculty, parents and others. The teams are taking over most of the decision-making, removing much of the authority from the School Committee.
Anderson told the committee that Chariho was “ahead of the curve” in adapting to the new order, but he also noted that it would be important to have a policy in place as soon as possible.
“This summer, when you’re in a position to hire people, most of the power has been taken away from from the superintendent, all of the power has been taken away from the school committees and they’ve been given to school improvement teams and you need to have some guidelines in place,” he said.
Committee members had questions about whether a quorum should be required for the team meetings; at what time of day the meetings would take place; whether a School Committee member should attend the meetings; whether minutes would be recorded, and how team members would be chosen.
Hopkinton Town Council member Barbara Capalbo said the format for the meetings should be consistent throughout the district.
“You really need consistency,” she said. “There’s too many schools and three towns to work between and that’s difficult all by itself.”
The committee will continue its discussion of the new policy at its next meeting.
No budget reductions were decided on Tuesday.