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Low Turnout, Big Opinions on Greenwich School Head

GREENWICH, Conn. – The five parents assembled at the much-publicized superintendent search forum at Greenwich's Central Middle School on Monday night may have been outnumbered by empty seats, but they were vocal about their desires in the next head of schools.

Jean-Jacques Illi, a resident of Steamboat Road who has a son at Julian Curtiss School, said most of all he was looking for a "warmhearted" superintendent. "We need someone who can inspire the community with his or her positive attitude," he said. "The person has to be able to make tough decisions, but explain such decisions with a razor-sharp analytical mind."

Bill Librera, an associate at the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, conducted one of the two forums Monday night to get input on attributes the community is looking for in a new school superintendent.

After speaking with administration, past school board members and the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Librera said one of the No. 1 priorities is to ensure longevity. "They are looking for someone who would make a commitment to stay in the district, significantly long enough to provide stability and to initiate programs and see them through to some reasonable conclusion," he said. The district has conducted three superintendent searches in the last six years.

The firm is using the information from the forums in addition to doing an online survey to create a "leadership profile" to use in its national search.

The board hopes to appoint a candidate by July 1.

Sue Rogers, former president of Greenwich's parent association, said the next superintendent needs to address diversity of learning in Greenwich and employ different principals to each school, down to the classroom level. "There an immense diversity in the district," said Rogers. "We have very high highs and very low lows, and the people in the middle with their own set of problems and issues, too."

Resident Steve Wilson asked Librera whether it was reasonable to expect a qualified, exemplary candidate to uproot and move to Greenwich given past problems between the superintendent and the Board of Education. Librera said yes.

"This is still a place with admirable resources. This is still a place where many talented people are working, and candidates who have been successful in the past are generally attracted to challenges, and this place has them," added Librera. "So long as there is the probability that you can work here over time and have impact."

Anyone who did not attend a forum can participate in an online survey that asks users to identify up to eight "desired characteristics" a candidate should have. "It has been successfully implemented before, and the key criteria identified will be ranked accordingly," said Leslie Moriarty, chairwoman of the Board of Education. "That survey will be weighted as much as comments at the forums."

The survey is available online. The deadline for completing it is Jan. 12

Another forum will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Western Middle School auditorium.

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