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GROTON — The search for a new superintendent to replace the departing Alan Genovese hit a speed bump last week when members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee found it difficult to agree on the makeup of a committee intended to screen applicants for the job.

At issue was a decision whether or not to revisit the question of membership in the screening committee.

At an earlier meeting, the School Committee had decided to limit membership of the group to teachers, parents, concerned citizens of both Groton and Dunstable, the School Committee and the administration among others. But when the make up of the membership was made public, some special interests, including the special education parents advisory committee (SpedPAC) took exception.

Led by SpeDPAC President Nancy Bugbee, the group appeared before the School Committee at its Dec. 2 meeting to read a statement arguing in favor of its being included among the Screening Committee’s membership.

Reminding the School Committee that her group was a state mandated one that had been invited to participate in many other committees set up for screening and hiring district employees, Bugbee said that one of the most important qualities looked for in a superintendent was leadership in “supporting, directing or developing programs” in the district including those for special education.

Noting that as much as 13 percent of the district’s pupils are included in some form of special education, Bugbee insisted that no other group was qualified to address the concerns of those students but SpedPAC.

SpedPAC was one of three new applicants for membership on the committee, all of whom some members of the School Committee were open to allowing to join.

Others, however, were concerned that the committee would become too big and unwieldy. In addition, if all three of the groups were allowed in, what about those groups who did not express interest believing that there was little chance of being chosen? If all three applicants were allowed to join, then it would be safe for those others to assume that if only they had made their interest known, they all would have been able to join as well. Allowing all three in would be unfair to those others who chose not to apply.

Voting on the issue, however, the committee decided to add a second member from the administrative council as well as a representative from SpedPAC.

The vote came following a report by Joanne Rys, a representative of NESDEC, the outfit hired by the School Committee to help conduct its search for a new superintendent.

In her report, Rys summarized the concerns raised by various focus groups representing different aspects of the community listing the kind of qualities participants wanted to see in a superintendent.

Among the qualities desired were that the new school chief be open minded and approachable; have experience in teaching, state law, and finance; have some background in special education and technology; be creative and trustworthy; communicative; supported parental involvement and diversity; and prioritized academic achievement.

Challenges identified for the new superintendent’s first year on the job were rebuilding confidence and trust between the administration and residents; setting long range goals, rebuilding staff, evaluation of curriculum and the use of special education funding; and updating technology and related training.

Concerns raised by the focus groups is to be presented to the screening committee to consider in their own deliberations when interviews with applicants begins. Already, the district has received more than 20 applications for the job with more expected.

Faced with an ambitious schedule, the screening committee is expected to submit a half dozen finalists to the School Committee for interviews by January with a final vote on which to hire to be made by March, 2010.

School Committee members embarked on their search process after Genovese informed them earlier in the year that he would retire when his current contract expired at the end of June 2010.

Genovese was hired by the district in 2005 to replace outgoing superintendent Mary Jennings and is expected to remain on the job to aid in the transition to his successor.