PATERSON — The city Board of Education has hired a company from Illinois to conduct a nationwide search for the next superintendent in New Jersey’s third-largest school district.
Last week’s unanimous vote for hiring Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates represents a major change from a year ago, when a majority of board members wouldn't even approve a measure to seek proposals from search firms.
“It’s about time,” said Rosie Grant, head of the Paterson Education Fund advocacy group. “The sooner they start, the better.”
Board President Kenneth Simmons said the search firm would meet with local stakeholders over the next several weeks to decide what qualifications Paterson will include in advertisements for the job, such as whether applicants would need a doctoral degree or experience as a classroom teacher.
Simmons said he hopes that by the end of the year the district and its consultants will have narrowed the field to a few finalists.
Simmons and other board members said the next superintendent likely would get a salary at least comparable to the $267,000 the district pays its current superintendent. Board member Emanuel Capers said part of the reason the district gave Eileen Shafer a raise two years ago was to boost the salary to attract highly qualified applicants when it started looking for her replacement.
Capers was among the board members who voted against starting the search last summer. He said he wanted to keep Shafer in the job for another year. That extra time also boost Shafer’s retirement benefits, under the state’s pension system.
Shafer earlier this year signed a contract extension that said she would retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Grant said she thought it is important for the school board that the search is “an open process with no heir apparent.” Otherwise, Grant said, Paterson may not get the best possible applicants.
Five years ago, there were complaints about a rigged selection process when state legislators and high-profile Paterson officials talked about Shafer's being the city’s next schools superintendent even while the district was taking applications for the job.
“We shouldn’t have any appearance that politics is involved,” Grant said.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ school board launches search for next superintendent