Citing the need for stability in the short term for the Manchester School District, the Board of Education voted Monday evening to extend the contract of interim Superintendent of Schools Richard Kisiel for up to two additional years.
“This evening, given a number of deliberations by the board, the board is not ready to select a candidate for superintendent, but rather move forward with Dr. Kisiel for an extended period of time. At this time, the board is anticipating extending the contract with Dr. Kisiel for an additional up to two years with the goal of finding a permanent superintendent as soon as possible,” Board Chairman Chris Pattacini said.
The search for a permanent superintendent will continue. The initial search yielded 30 inquiries, 17 applicants, and 7 candidates were given interviews. Two candidates were called back for a second interview, but neither was offered the position. Pattaccini said they would be welcome to remain in the running while the search was expanded and more candidates sought.
The board voted by a tally of 6-2 for the extension of the contract of the interim superintendent.
The two members opposed to the extension of the contract said that the board search committee failed to do its job by not identifying an appropriate, permanent superintendent.
Reading a prepared statement for herself and member Jason Scappaticci, member Sarah Walton expressed her displeasure with the result of the search committee.
“It is the responsibility of the board to select a superintendent who is not only capable of developing a long-term vision, but has the ability to guide that vision through its implementation which will take longer than one or two years. As a member of the search committee we feel that we have collectively failed to fulfill our obligation which was entrusted to us by our community,” Walton said.
Walton said that the process was not as transparent as it might have been, and that the decision to proceed with the extension of the interim superintendent represented more than just a failure of the committee.
“The community wants a permanent superintendent to lead the district, continuing with an interim will delay getting a permanent superintendent. The two year appointment of an interim shows a lack of urgency to find a permanent superintendent,” she said.
Walton was quick to laud Kisiel’s dedication and vision, and stated that it was not his performance that led to her and Scappaticci's decision.
Board member Michael Crockett offered disagreed with their views. He claimed the district was in such a delicate state that continuity at the top of the administration was key, and having a proven commodity in Kisiel would best serve the students.
“We would have failed if we hired the wrong person. Try getting rid of a superintendent you don't like after one year. Tell me know how much money it's gonna cost. I know the answer to that. Dr. Kisiel is more than just a seat warmer, he has come in here and made a difference,” he said.
“We've got the right guy at the right time, and I will support him for another two years, and hope that we can get somebody in the next year that will work as hard as Dr. Kisiel,” Crockett continued.
Pattacini reiterated the need for continuity and called the district lucky and blessed to continue to have the services of Kisiel.
“We are at a critical point in education in our community and in this nation. It really is an inflection point, the changes that have occurred at the state level has really created an opportunity and a moment here where reform efforts are going to be critical. I think it's important that we have continuity within the school district to insure that the reform efforts that are being developed are implemented and are successful,” Pattacini said.
In a move signaling his confidence and the board's comfort with Kisiel at the helm, Pattacini added to the next meeting agenda a discussion of the superintendent's goals for the coming year.
Primary on the list is the development of the Alliance Grant plan, with a potential boon of $1.4 million in state grants designated for improvements in many key areas including K-3 literacy, teacher improvement, and a focus on achievement of district goals in line with state and federal standards under revisions to the No Child Left Behind law guidelines.
Editor's note: This story was changed at 10:50 a.m. to correct the incorrect spelling of Interim Superintendent Kisiel's name.