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Subcommittee recommends keeping Connelly for 3rd year

Nashoba Publishing file photo/John Love
Interim Harvard School Supt. Joseph Connelly has served as the chief administrator for the Harvard School District for the last two school years. On Feb. 25, the Harvard School Committee will receive a recommendation that Connelly be retained for a third school year in the wake of the unsuccessful fall/winter search for a new school supterintendent.

HARVARD – The recommendation to the full Harvard School Committee on Feb. 25 will be to seek another “critical need waiver” from the state in order to retain Interim School Superintendent Joseph Connelly for a third consecutive school year. That was the consensus Friday from the two members of the Supt. Search Subcommittee, consisting of school committee members Keith Cheveralls and Chair SusanMary Redinger.

The original, full-bodied 13 member Supt. Search Subcommittee had toiled over the fall to produce 3 finalist names from an original pool of 31 applicants. However, since they were announced in the days prior to Christmas, each of the three finalists withdrew from consideration for various reasons.

In January with no finalists left to consider, Redinger declared the search for a full time school superintendent to start work on July 1 to be “closed.” The school committee has since opted to retain an interim school superintendent for a third consecutive year.

Connelly began work in district under a “critical need waiver” for the 2011-2012 school year. Connelly, who otherwise retired in 2007, has found a second career in retirement as an interim administrator for a string of districts.

For the present 2012-2013 school year, the district kept Connelly aboard a critical need waiver when Connelly agreed to work at an 80 percent schedule. If granted by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for 2013-2014, it would be Harvard’s second critical need waiver.

Cheveralls noted that their recommendation is “subject to discussion” with Connelly regarding his willingness to be retained as interim superintendent for a third year. “That’s essentially going to be our recommendation,” summarized Cheveralls.

If the committee agreed, then the first step would be to apply to the DESE for the waiver. Cheveralls suggested that Redinger be authorized to open the waiver application process on behalf of the board.

Cheveralls also suggested that Glenn Koocher, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) would be “very, very helpful” in the rebooted process.

“We do this once in a blue moon,” said Cheveralls. “Glenn routinely helps districts” by “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s to ensure all the supporting documentation is in order.”

“We’ll need copies of the job posting, the names of candidates who applied and a brief synopsis as to why they didn’t meet the criteria we advertised,” said Cheveralls. Redinger noted that over 1,000 Harvard School District brochures were distributed during the subcommittee’s autumn search for candidates.

Cheveralls restated that the recommendation would be to retain Connelly for the 2013-2014 school year with a search for a new permanent superintendent to launch in September.

Redinger said another approach could be to offer Connelly a half year post, “I don’t know if he’d be as interested.”

“I don’t think it makes sense for the district, either,” agreed Cheveralls.

Cheveralls cautioned against a supposition that the waiver is a “slam dunk…we need to respect the process. They [DESE] won’t just rubber stamp this.”


Redinger and Cheveralls considered methods of exit-interviewing the other subcommittee members to gather feedback on how the screening process played out. The school committee will launch a second search for a permanent superintendent this fall.

Redinger ruled out calling together all original 13 Search Subcommittee members, saying it would be a “scheduling nightmare.” Redinger wondered if one meeting might gather most members, leaving herself and Cheveralls to meet with any individuals who could not meet that meeting time.

Cheveralls feared that some “might trip across the confidentiality rules” if they met in open session. “Obviously, we can’t let that happen.” Cheveralls further wondered “what information are we trying to get first of all. We can’t ask ‘what worked’ or ‘didn’t work’ because that’s highly subjective.”

Cheveralls suggested alternatively that Redinger “reach out to them and solicit their input” and that Redinger “compile that as a composite and present that to the school committee” on “one or two areas that school committee would find helpful.”

Rather than a focus on “minutiae,” Cheveralls suggested emails to the committee members seeking a “macro” look at “what worked and what didn’t. It’s more of a process issue.”

Redinger said she’d present her composite findings to the full school committee on March 11.

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