Board Narrows Down Candidates in Saddle Brook Superintendent Search
Saddle Brook Board of Education president Marilyn Nasello said she expects the board will have selected a finalist for the open superintendent job by early April.
The search for a successor to retiring Saddle Brook superintendent Kathryn Fedina should be finished within a month.
The Saddle Brook Board of Education, which concluded its first round of superintendent candidate interview sessions Tuesday night, expects to have finished whittling down its field of more than 30 total applicants for the position by early April, Board President Marilyn Nasello said Monday.
The board has been working with Sousa and Stern Educational Consultants, a private firm with expertise in conducting superintendent searches, since late last year when Fedina announced she would retire when her contract expired at the end of this school year.
Sousa and Stern, who also conducted the district's previous superintendent search that culminated in the hiring of Fedina in 2010, said they were committed to having a new schools chief in place by July 1.
Residents and board members agreed that Saddle Brook's next superintendent needed to be a good match for the district, but differed on what they believed represented the right fit.
Nasello said her ideal superintendent candidate would be prepared to face upcoming challenges like carrying on the district's recent technology push and increasing standardized test scores.
"We’re looking for someone who’s experienced, who’s the right fit for our district. Someone who can help us grow, someone who can provide some insight and take us to the next level," she said.
Going into the search, board trustee Robert White said he preferred an internal candidate who was already familiar with the district and would be committed to sticking around long-term.
He spoke glowingly of Fedina, saying he regretted only that the district hadn't been able to keep her beyond three years.
"I wish we would have locked Dr. Fedina into a five-year contract," White said. "It would have been nice to have her another couple years because she’s wonderful. If we can find someone that’s like her, it would be a home run."
A group of residents, who met with a Stern and Sousa representative back in December, agreed the board should consider tendering the next superintendent a longer contract -- by law, superintendent contracts must run between three and five years.
"We've been burned so many times, it's hard," said one resident, whose primary focus seemed to be finding a qualified superintendent who would not be scared off by working in Saddle Brook or with Saddle Brook residents.
"We’re a rough crowd here. We’re not easy people. You have to be a certain kind of person here," continued the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. "People get in your face and I don’t think we can handle some very meek, but very educated person. They’re not going to jell well. They’re going to be upset every day of their life that they’re working here and they’re going to end up leaving."
Residents who attended the December powwow with Stern and Sousa agreed that the district's next chief should be a compassionate, capable leader with a strong, but respectful personality who made themselves visible in the community and loved their job.
Former board trustee Christopher Winnie said he wanted a superintendent who didn't look at the role as "just a job."
"You have a lot of people that look at it — this is a paycheck, I’ve got a three-year contract, basically I can do what I want to do when I want to do it," he said at the meeting. "[I want] somebody that looks at the job and actually still enjoys coming to work."
The board will begin its second round of candidate interviews within two weeks and hopes to have narrowed the field down to two or three finalists shortly thereafter, Nasello said. Once the finalists have been chosen, they'll be asked for references and may also visit the district so trustees can get a feel for how they fit in to Saddle Brook.
"The board doesn’t want to hire somebody who just wants to be in another district. They want to hire someone that fits your district," educational consultant Nancy Stern said. "It’s a selection process on two sides. The board is selecting a candidate, but that candidate is also selecting the board and selecting the district. It’s got to be a match on both sides."