SOUTHINGTON — After meeting with the search consultants Thursday night at Derynoski School, it was clear that residents are looking for an approachable, confident, involved and knowledgeable leader to be Southington’s next school superintendent.
Nine people from the community gathered to meet with the consultants to voice their opinions about what they would like to see in the next school leader.
The consultants hired by the Board of Education, Mary Broderick and George Goens, of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education’s Search Services, led the forum.
“We’re going to listen and we want you to talk to us about qualities, characteristics and philosophies you would like in the next superintendent,” Goens said.
School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. recently accepted a position as superintendent of Newtown schools and his last day in Southington will be April 11. Assistant Superintendent Karen Smith will serve as interim superintendent until the school board hires another leader.
“He always made you feel like you were important when you were speaking to him,” said town resident Daniel Tartarelli, a former teacher at Southington High School, describing Erardi.
Many people, like Elise Sowa, a resident who had three children go through the school system, said they would like a clone of Erardi.
Sowa said Erardi has a “levelheadedness” about him — he was easy to approach and he listened to concerns. It is something she wants to see in the next leader, as well as confidence.
“They should be able to speak well, fiscally,” said Sowa, who has served on search groups in the past. “They should be able to back up their budget. They really need to express it.”
Rodney Ragucci, a business owner in town, asked Goens and Broderick what kinds of questions the search consultants would be asking potential candidates to make sure they fit the right profile.
Goens said candidates are often put in different scenarios to see how they would react. It helps to judge their character as well as their knowledge, he said.
On Feb. 24 the consultants hosted a series of nine focus groups, including teachers, parents, school administrators and civic leaders, to hear what they wished to see in the next superintendent. A leadership profile will be created based on the opinions of the community to guide the school board in interviewing candidates.
“We’ve listened to several hundred people at this time,” Broderick said.
Candidate interviews are scheduled to start in April, with a decision by the end of the month. If the Board of Education has not made a decision by then, Goens said he usually recommends extending the process to get more candidates.
“This is a process you don’t want to rush,” Goens said.