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SHS Principal Named Interim Supt; Search Suspended Until March

The search for a permanent superintendent has been put on hold.

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.

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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.

Baffled Resident January 01, 2013 at 11:53 PM
http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Newtown-superintendent-s-contract-won-t-be-3682625.php
Jon Doe January 02, 2013 at 08:25 AM
I agree, Dr. Orr is an exceptional leader who in my experience is 100% above board, highly ethical, and a tremendously effective and creative problem solver. He is a gifted diplomat who looks for a win win solution when possible. He would be a wonderful addition to the downtown office.
Chris Stevens January 03, 2013 at 12:25 AM
She's coming from another town, just poor timing due to unfortunate circumstances......
Patricia Clark Sperling January 04, 2013 at 02:21 PM
I have actually heard some very complimentary things about Mrs. Lasek in just the few days she has been at the BOE, and her approach has been that of respect. What I was told made me think of her as a breath of fresh air and I'm hopeful that that will be the case for the remainder of the school year. One of my hopes for whomever is ultimately seated as Superintendent is that some of the “old school” ways of past Superintendent Ray O’Connell come back in to play. Unfortunately, Irene Cornish was not a “people person” and did not treat all employees with respect and that has trickled down the chain at East Broadway. As around and you’ll get a sense that it’s more of a dictatorship than a team environment. A couple others should be putting in their resignation papers there as well. As for Gavin Forrester’s statement – typical political mumbo jumbo. Gavin drinks the kool-aid. Never thought that would happen, and I’m sad that it has, but I guess when you’re in Town politics as long as he has been it doesn’t matter if you’re on the Town side or BOE side – the kool-aid is all the same.
CHOICES CONSEQUENCES January 05, 2013 at 09:12 PM
The entire BOE drinks the Kool Aid, the perfect euphemism for accepting without question and approving whatever the superintendent's office submits to the members prior to each monthly board meeting. Our elected BOE members do not have the time, formal education or experience in public education essential to evaluate the decisions and performance of a superintendent and subordinate administrators. Any BOE lacking the specialized knowledge required to fairly asses the performance and suitability for retention of a superintendent is likely to make costly and harmful decisions, as demonstrated by the retention of Mrs. Cornish for ten years. Leadership skills and style, exceptional interpersonal skills, and key elements of character (Respect, Honesty, Caring, and Fairness) define the effective public school superintendent. The BOE knows this and therefore should have terminated Mrs. Cornish years ago.

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