Two dozen candidates reportedly have tossed their hats into the ring for the permanent Hartford school superintendent position, which will be filled around the time the District confronts its annual budget crisis, this time replete with school consolidation decisions.  An extraordinary leader is required.

The 12 core competencies that the search committee has spelled out for the position are daunting; so are the demonstrable traits, past record, future vision, and depth and breadth of skills that have been laid out in the profile of the new superintendent.

Hartford Board Chair Richard Wareing said yesterday that the search committee recommendations will come “hopefully, sometime in March.”  But he also advised that there is a big difference between an internal candidate on hand to take the job and another wrapping up a tenure elsewhere, perhaps with a longer time frame in which to give notice.

While Hartford is about to hire its fourth permanent superintendent since 2006, it still is beating the rough national average of a three-year tenure at the top – but not by much.

“Everyone wants longevity – the Board, the community, the people who work for the school system, and the superintendent her or himself,” Chair Wareing elaborated.  “But there are lot of factors that make it hard to achieve – the difficulty of the job, political changes, a superintendent’s own changing professional aspirations.  It is hard to see into the future and plan for all eventualities.”

While we agree with Board Chairman Wareing, we also note one of the biggest factors in superintendent stability: effective governance.  This has to do with the role Board members and the mayor play to support education citywide – a conversation we started before the holidays and recapped here.

Here is the December 30th Courant coverage of the search process.

In a related matter, the Courant argued in an editorial this week that CT school superintendents’ performance evaluations should be made public – as is the case in Hartford.

The Bottom Line

Hartford’s fourth school superintendent choice since 2006 will come soon – and it will be crucial to the fulfillment of the District’s commitments to its five-year strategic plan and the complex task of consolidating under-enrolled schools (while addressing those that are chronically low-performing).  If not squarely faced, these challenges will undermine school improvement efforts in the capital city for years to come.  Whether or not we have or can find a leader capable of leading our city – alongside our Board and mayor – remains to be seen, and is something we will weigh in on soon.