Board members said to be ‘uncomfortable’ with soliciting pubic input
Updated: 6:45 p.m., adds comments from Tonya Thames Taylor
Less than two weeks after announcing that it would use the Chester County Intermediate Unit to perform a search for a new superintendent of schools, the Coatesville Area School District Board of Education informed CCIU officials Wednesday that it would be looking for a different option to lead the search.
CCIU Executive Director Joseph O’Brien confirmed the news Thursday, echoing what multiple sources told The Times this week.
Although the CCIU has completed six similar searches for school superintendents in Chester County in recent years, including in neighboring districts Downingtown and Unionville — and all six superintendents hired through the process remain on the job — sources said numerous school board members were uncomfortable with the CCIU process. Typically, the CCIU engages in 12 to 15 focus groups, asking for input from various groups within the community, to help define the issues facing a given district as well as the qualities desired in a new leader.
At least one board member, Tonya Thames Taylor, said Thursday night that it was the CCIU’s insistence on having a “limited, targeted search,” rather than casting the widest net possible to find the new superintendent that led to the board’s decision to seek other options. She rejected claims that any board member took issue with focus groups, but rather felt that the CCIU was imposing too many conditions for the process to work the way the board desired.
CCIU is well-regarded around the state and recently completed a superintendent search for the Radnor School District. While the service is free for Chester County schools, the CCIU earned an estimated $30,000 fee for its work with Radnor.
It is unclear whether the district will hire an outside firm to manage the process or attempt to fill the position with a district-run process. District Solicitor James Ellison, Board President Neil Campbell, and Acting Superintendent of Schools Angelo Romaniello did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
O’Brien expressed disappointment, but voiced hope that the CASD community would ultimately find the right leader.
“We know there are so many good people in that community, people we know are passionate about education,” he said. “We stand ready to offer any assistance we can provide.”
O’Brien declined further comment, but multiple sources told The Times that the sticking point was the series of focus groups CCIU holds to get opinions from parents, teachers, students, and community members as to what the district’s strengths and weaknesses are and the qualities needed in the next district leader.
The board discussed the issue during an executive session prior to Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, but the topic did not come up during the public session.
One insider described the board members — Joe Dunn and Tonya Thames Taylor were said to be the most vehement, which Taylor denies — as being concerned about “mob rule” dominating the hiring process, and were unhappy with a hiring time frame that could potentially stretch into 2014. Taylor specifically said the latter claim is inaccurate, as she said no one on the board expected to complete the hiring process before March or April of 2014. Dunn also denied that report and said it was incorrect.