The Stratford Board of Education voted Thursday night to temporarily suspend its search for a superintendent to fill the role soon to be vacated at year's end by departing Supt. Irene Cornish.
Time right now needs to be spent reviewing the district's emergency plans and procedures in the wake of the Newtown elementary school shooting, says BOE Chairman Gavin Forrester.
"Combine that with the fact that currently every district in our state is actively involved in their budget process and it became clear to the board that our best course of action would be to suspend our search and name an acting superintendent for the balance of this school year and to resume our deliberations in late March and early April," Forrester said in a release (scroll down).
Stratford High School Principal Margaret Lasek will serve as interim superintendent upon the formal retirement of Cornish on Jan. 1, and will remain in that role until a permanent replacement is named prior to July 1, 2013, he said.
By Gavin Forrester
Let me take a brief moment and outline the history and process by which we have arrived at our decision today.
Upon the notification of the retirement of our current Superintendent, Dr. Irene Cornish, the Board requested proposals from search consultants and agreed in the early summer to contract with the representatives of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE).
A search committee was appointed and the summer was spent developing a district profile for potential candidates, conducting focus groups and surveys to solicit input from the public on those qualities the community was looking for in our next district leader, and culminated with our posting for the position in late summer.
The Board received nearly 20 applicants from not only here in Connecticut but also New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. After reviewing the applicants we then conducted several interviews with potential candidates and reduced the number to a final group of three individuals in early December.
As fate would have it the unimaginable tragedy then occurred in Newtown before we could name our new Superintendent and it became clear that everyone involved in the education community needed to focus solely upon reviewing our emergency plans and procedures, not only here in Stratford which we are actively doing with the assistance of the Mayor and his staff, but in every district in Connecticut as well.
Combine that with the fact that currently every district in our State is actively involved in their budget process and it became clear to the Board that our best course of action would be to suspend our search and name an acting Superintendent for the balance of this school year and to resume our deliberations in late March and early April when districts will have had more time to reflect upon the events of the past few weeks and much of their budget work will be behind them.
To that end we immediately began discussions on who we felt would be the most experienced person within our district to direct us for the balance of the school year without causing a major shift of personnel and resources throughout the district.
It came to mind that we have such a person within our mists and in fact Dr. Cornish’s eluted to her during her remarks at the ceremony to honor her upon her retirement when she mentioned how this person was so valuable to her during her early years as Superintendent here in Stratford.
With that being said the Stratford Board of Education voted this evening to appoint Stratford High School Principal Margaret Lasek as interim superintendent upon the formal retirement of Dr. Irene Cornish on Jan 1., 2013.
Mrs. Lasek has served the district for 41-plus years, and has been a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels here in Stratford. The board's decision is based on her extensive knowledge of the district, her experience in assisting with the operation of the district under Superintendent Cornish prior to the establishment of the assistant superintendent position, and the desire to minimize the disruption to the districts leadership.
Until a permanent replacement can be named for Mrs. Lasek as principal at Stratford High School the building will be lead by Mr. Joseph Corso, one of the current Assistant Principals at Stratford High School.
Mrs. Lasek will continue as the interim superintendent until a permanent superintendent is named prior to July 1, 2013, after which, she will be assigned to assist the new Superintendent acclimate to our district.
The Assistant Supt. Elaine Watson will continue in that role to ensure the district’s progress and development in the areas of preparation for new State of Connecticut Department of Education standards to include Common Core, Teacher/Administrator Evaluations, Curriculum review and development as well as her many other areas of expertise all of which will allow the district’s programs to move forward in an uninterrupted manner.
Assistant Supt. Watson has displayed outstanding achievement in the past in these vital areas and we look forward to her continued work to improve our district going forward.
Lastly the Board and District will also have the opportunity to work on a consulting basis with Dr. Jackie Jacoby who has been instrumental with our search for a new Superintendent. Dr. Jacoby began her career in education as a classroom teacher and quickly moved to a variety of both line and staff positions in public and private education.
She completed her doctorate at Boston College and served as both an energetic and creative suburban superintendent in Glastonbury, CT for a period of 11 years. This was followed serving as the interim urban Superintendent of Hartford CT, along the way she served as Chair/Professor of Education at a private university in Connecticut and taught leadership courses at the University of Connecticut.
Jacoby is a champion of selecting talent and has promoted a program of recruitment and retention in the districts where she has been an educational leader. Evidence of success is the team of administrators selected by the board of education in a suburban community, all of whom were hired and coached by Dr. Jacoby. She has continued in this effort by mentoring for over five years with Connecticut superintendents new to their positions.
The Board feels confident that we have a solid leadership team that will lead us through these difficult challenges and provide a solid bridge between the leadership of Dr. Cornish until a new permanent Superintendent is appointed in 2013.