Andover has chosen the qualities it wants in a new permanent superintendent, bringing the town closer to finding that person.

After hosting 15 focus groups with parents, students and school staff, the district’s consulting firm, Ray & Associates, took input from those groups to help the School Committee determine the criteria being used as Andover advertises the position.

The consulting firm will recruit candidates until Feb. 28, putting the school district on track to hire a permanent superintendent who will start working July 1, said Molly Schwarzhoff, the firm’s executive vice president.

The School Committee hired the firm in November to find a permanent replacement after Superintendent Shelly Berman resigned. Andover hired former Superintendent Claudia Bach as interim school district leader for six months, but must find a replacement for her by July 1.

After the focus groups met and public surveys were completed, it became apparent people in the community want a strong leader who will build on the success of Andover schools rather than making big changes to the district, Schwarzhoff said.

“They don’t want someone to come in and completely change the climate, but someone who knows what they are doing and who can take it and run with it,” she said, “someone who listens, but ultimately needs to make a decision.”

One of the most profound focus group comments came from a middle school student who wanted her teachers and parents to be comfortable with the new superintendent, Schwarzhoff said.

The student also said the next superintendent should be “‘a humble leader who learns,” Schwarzhoff recalled.

The School Committee decided on 12 criteria for the superintendent, including “is willing to listen to input, but is a decision-maker” and “is strongly committed to a ‘student first’ philosophy in all decisions.”

The search firm is set to finalize the job posting.

After the firm receives applications, it will choose the best candidates for a town search committee to review. The School Committee has yet to decide who will be on the search committee.

It hasn't been determined if parents or other community members will be allowed to apply for membership on the search committee because of the sensitive nature of the hiring process, school officials said. Search committee Vice Chair Susan McCready said she is wary of involving parents in the process because of the confidentiality required.

Michael Collins, president of the search firm, said the final choice of who becomes the new superintendent will be made in public. The School Committee, the last group to interview candidates, will hold interviews of finalists in public. Collins said a school district can also have other events, such as meet-and-greet sessions where members of the public talk to finalists.


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