Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Slow Walk To Nowhere

Ken O’Brien

Video Below
Last night the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC), Glenn Koocher, appeared before the Southbridge School Committee.

Mr. Koocher appeared in the context of presenting the MASC’s potential role in running the town’s search for a new superintendent of schools.

You will recall that the School Committee appeared to bow to public pressure back on February 10th by voting to conduct such a search.

Now, only two months later, Mr. Koocher appeared as the representative of the only organization that has expressed a firm willingness to undertake such a task.

However, his ardor for pursuing such a task was distinctly lukewarm. At least it was in terms of pursuing it now. 

He pointed out to the committee that their timing was inopportune. Most school committees, he maintained, undertake such searches beginning around Thanksgiving. By so doing they have a better chance of enticing the most attractive candidates for such a position.

Far be it from me to seem overly skeptical. I may have my doubts about the degree to which the leadership of the school committee is committed to this task. I may even suspect that they would like to find a way to postpone the whole exercise indefinitely.

But I will say that it is a good thing that Mr. Koocher is not running for a high-profile public office. If he were he might have to explain how his thinking, in fact his whole position, on the subject of timing such a search has changed drastically in three-and-a-half months.

You see, back at the end of last December, December 28th to be exact, he was quoted extensively in an article in the Boston Globe titled “A rush to pick new school superintendents”. These were among his remarks at that time:

Winchester, Waltham, and Mansfield started looking in the fall and have already selected new superintendents, said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
“It’s unusual they would all get started so early,’’ said Koocher, whose group is conducting several searches around the state.

Koocher said districts usually start looking in January and February with hiring in March so the new superintendents can give 90 days’ notice before starting in the summer.

“Things have not slowed down for us on the superintendent searching front,’’ Koocher said.
“You just never know who will announce their retirement later, rather than sooner. If you are a superintendent, you don’t want to be a lame duck for any longer than you have to be.’’

Koocher said retirements are the biggest reason for superintendent vacancies in the state. He said the state’s early retirement system is an incentive for people to leave when they still have 10 years or more of productive service to give.

The last observation was elaborated upon by Danielle Black, chairwoman of the Weston School Committee. “I’m not sure a superintendent wants to start the year saying they are looking for a new job.’’

Then there’s the matter of school districts for which the MASC is currently conducting superintendent searches. Again, from the Globe article:
Even though several districts are already done, others including Marshfield, Salem, Weston, and Braintree are just getting started. And even more will be forced to look when sitting superintendents create openings by retiring or moving to new districts, Koocher said.

In addition to these, the MASC website lists Lowell, Middleborough and Gosnold as communities for whom they are currently conducting searches. Palmer and Granby are listed as districts in which it has upcoming searches scheduled.

One could hardly suspect that Mr. Koocher’s remarks had been tailored to suit the predilections of a constituent school committee’s leadership. However, I am hard-pressed to explain in any other way his departure from his earlier remarks as well his organizations current practices.

I am sure that it is merely a reflection of the difficulties encountered by this school committee in retaining any other firms to vie for the opportunity to manager the search process. As Mr. Koocher himself noted, the last three years have been marked by a good deal of "turbulence" on the superintendent front. 

Perhaps progress in amending that difficulty will be resolved this June. A change resulting from the upcoming election might be just what is needed and allow an “early” start to an otherwise long-delayed quest.


  1. I agree that Koocher's argument about timing due to the candidate pool is bogus. It's far more likely that it is due to the chaos that McLoughlin, Donovan and Quinney have caused. He alluded to this but was bound by simple civility from blaming them outright.
    McLoughlin had it right though when she said that the district had a reputation as a "superintendent killer." Her only error was in blaming the district rather than herself and her partners.

  2. Wait to Select New SuperintendentApril 15, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    It's obvious that McLoughlin and Donovan are still clueless and fearful about seeking a long-term leader for our district; and that's understandable. Remember these two voted to extend Ely's contract for an additional 2 years when they has served less than 72 hours on the committee, and we should all recall how Ely went out.
    Then we had 18 months of law-suit Buzz. Millions wasted on employee wrongful terminations, no textbooks for students, principals and staff merry-go-round, etc.
    The best thing for our students would be to get rid of MSC and Dodo and let the next school committee select a leader, no a retire money hoarder.

  3. What an incredible crock. McLaughlin has already dawdled for 2 months. I doubt that as things stand if they could even get another superintendent before Stanton’s contract expire. Now what are they going to do? Conduct another survey! It’s time to scuttle the whole crew. At the very least get rid McLaughlin, Donovan, Quinney and Abrahamson.

  4. We have the talentApril 16, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    Please can we get real. When is enough enough. There is enough local talent in our own system and we will never look into our own because of politics. They all run and say they will look for the betterment, HELLO, what a joke. That is the way this town always works. Can we first forgive and forget and look for our future, we have talent HERE, PLEASE!!!

    1. Never Forgive or ForgetApril 17, 2015 at 4:34 PM

      Do you really expect the professionals that McLaughlin and Donovan , and their lackies, have professionally and personally damaged to "forgive and forget?" There is great hatred, and deservedly so, towards these two political hacks. I suspect this hatred will go well beyond their ouster in June. They can not unring the bell or undo the wrongful damage they have done. It angers me when I see these hypocrites at church on Sunday acting as though they are decent human beings - they are not.
      The sad reality is the damage not only extends to the adults in our system, but to the students, as well.

  5. Stability starts at the top!


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