New Castle News

Closer Look

February 20, 2013

Our Opinion: New Castle board must hire outsider as superintendent

NEW CASTLE — As the New Castle school board pursues a new superintendent, a few things should be kept in mind.

First and foremost is the fact the superintendent will take office at a challenging time. Typically, there is no ideal point for transitioning from one superintendent to another, but the issues facing the city school system right now are probably more challenging than normal.

The district is in the midst of a major new construction project with the Lockley facility, and the subsequent closure of the city’s other elementary schools.

Plus, the district is contending with financial issues ranging from ongoing uncertainty over state support, declining enrollment, a stagnant local tax base and now the matter of a proposed charter school for the city, which could take state funds from the district.

On top of all this is the push for assorted education-related reforms that pressure all districts.

Meanwhile, New Castle’s new superintendent also will contend with a sharply divided school board, where communication appears to be an issue. Undoubtedly, the district needs a superintendent who enjoys challenges, but dealing with a squabbling school board may be one too many.

Representatives of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, who are assisting the board with its selection process, have noted they do not expect many people to apply for the position — despite a widespread search. To put it bluntly, qualified people won’t be tripping over each other to become superintendent of the New Castle school system.

This fact ought to persuade board members of the benefits of basic communication and cooperation. The role of a school board member is to serve the community as a whole. At times, that means setting aside egos and certain priorities for the greater good.

As for the selection of a new superintendent, the question of whether someone should be promoted from within or hired from the outside inevitably arises in New Castle. We strongly believe the board must select a superintendent who’s not affiliated with the district or an internal faction.

An outsider will have greater latitude to pursue needed changes without worrying about the baggage of favoritism. In this regard, a new superintendent must be strong enough to deal with internal conflicts in an independent fashion. Being an outsider should serve as a benefit.

With all of this in mind, New Castle school board members need to recognize that the hiring of a new superintendent may be the most significant decision they make as public servants. They owe it to taxpayers of the community to choose wisely.

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