New Castle News

Closer Look

December 12, 2012

Our Opinion: City school board must act openly and aggressively to fill post

NEW CASTLE — On Oct. 25, New Castle school district superintendent George Gabriel announced his retirement.

The move was effective at the end of January, and a majority on the city school board accepted Gabriel’s letter.

But here we are, more than six weeks later, and the school board has yet to act in any meaningful manner in terms of finding Gabriel’s replacement.

That’s puzzling, considering the importance of the superintendent post in any school district. It’s doubly so in New Castle with assorted issues at hand — not the least of which are plans to consolidate the district’s elementary schools at the Lockley site and pursue a major construction project.

You would think there would be some sense of urgency about having a new superintendent in place to deal effectively with such matters.

But it was only this week that newly elected board president David DiGiammarino solicited input from fellow school directors about how to proceed. Action to pursue a replacement for Gabriel likely will not begin until January.

Hiring a new superintendent is one of the most important matters any school board will be called upon to perform. We suspect the lack of activity in New Castle stems from the larger communications issues in the district that we have cited in the past.

Taking the helm of the board this month, DiGiammarino has the chance to set matters straight. Not only does that mean getting the process moving. It also means working to ensure the selection of a new superintendent takes place in a responsible and open manner.

It was noted this week that the local intermediate unit offers its services to area school districts when it comes to developing a search process for superintendents. We certainly encourage the New Castle board to take advantage of this resource.

Furthermore, we urge board members to view this moment as an opportunity for preparing the district for the serious challenges that lie ahead.

These include not only the ongoing struggle to maintain and improve education in the community, but to do so amid times of significant fiscal uncertainty.

New Castle will need an effective superintendent who can successfully face these and other challenges in the coming years. Plus, that superintendent — along with the district as a whole — will require the confidence of the larger community in order to achieve these goals.

This is why the process used to select the new superintendent is so important. The public needs to know the board is doing everything possible to entice the most qualified candidates. Rather than a process that’s merely another political appointment, the board must conduct a serious and broad-based search.

And it needs to do so with all deliberate speed.

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