ROCKPORT — While local school officials have outlined the input they received citing residents' priorities and concerns for attracting a new superintendent of schools, more than 40 applicants have applied for the job, the head of the search committee says.
Pamela Brindamour, whose committee is seeking to fill the permanent job by June, said the town had received 44 applicants as of Friday, the application deadline, with all looking to succeed current Superintendent Susan King when she steps down at the end of June after four years at the helm.
King, who came to Rockport from New Jersey in 2008, but who had also previously worked as a school administrator in the Triton Regional District based in Byfield, announced in Byfield she would step aside at the end of the current school year for personal reasons.
The volume of candidates comes as school officials continue to evaluate information gleaned from an online survey conducted by the School Committee with an eye toward gauging what residents want and expect from the next superintendent.
In an open letter posted on the school district's website — rockport.k12.ma.us — School Committee Chairman Michael Kelley noted that 49 people "from the public, staff and student body chose to answer five online survey questions."
Nearly half the respondents, Kelley reported, cited their chief school concerns as "budget issues and how they impacted the number and quality of course offerings — particularly as they related to the scope of Advanced Placement, languages, music/arts, library and sports support."
"Some respondents were concerned with staff attrition, others with reducing staff and several debated the merits of school choice as a funding vehicle and its impact on class size," Kelley said.
"Respondents also offered suggestions on the type of communication style that might best mesh with the town, parents and school staff," Kelley wrote, "listing traits that demonstrated a perfect (superintendent) candidate's interpersonal style to be positive, inspiring, strong, proactive, creative, approachable, supportive, decisive, fair, respectful, hard working, inclusive, honest, transparent and prone to good listening.
"A sense of humor was also suggested as an important attribute," he added, "given the multiple roles the superintendent plays."
Kelley's report indicated that a quarter of the respondents cited the need to address "morale and communication issues," while requesting "more transparency, more parental input and the need for an inspiring leader with vision."
"Technology was also discussed by the same number," Kelley wrote, "most wanting upgrades to 'bring school into the 21st century,' although several asked for more thought/emphasis on values/character."
"One commentator was against spending on technologies that could quickly become obsolete," Kelley wrote, while "infrastructure management was also a concern for a quarter of the respondents, with some citing the aging of buildings, bad air, space issues and a desire to become more 'green' with recycling."
Kelley's full report and additional results from the survey can be found on the schools' website. The school board chairman added that the input has given committee and search panel members a number of important issues to consider in choosing a new schools chief.
"Combining this input with that from the public forum on Feb. 6, existing questions from the previous search and the varied expertise of its constituent members," he wrote, "the Superintendent Search Committee has an impressive context from the community with which to move forward to define interview questions and begin evaluating applications."
The next meeting of the Superintendent Search Committee will be Tuesday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the Rockport Middle School/High School Library.