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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Process to hire principal wasn't easy, or quick

TOWNSHEND—Hiring a new principal at Leland & Gray took months and required a complex filtration system made up of at least half a dozen committees through which information was refined.

Committee members represented every nook and cranny of the school: teachers of nearly every discipline, administrators, school board representatives, support staff (so-called non-licensed professionals), parents and students.

“We began last spring with a resume review committee,” said Steven B. John, superintendent of the Windham Central Supervisory Union, which serves 10 towns in southern Vermont, including the 390 students in grades 7-12 at Leland & Gray Union High School.

“There was an extensive search,” he explained, declining to assign a number to the application pool. “Numbers means different things to different people. But we had a big response, an extensive and rich pool. It’s a nuanced and careful process, not perfunctory or pro forma.”

John, who designed the system the school used, said he anticipated procedures eventually covered in Act 153, a portion of health care reform legislation that broadly covers so-called safe staffing.

John was a non-voting member of all committees but he reserved recommending rights, he said.  “I was present at all the meetings,” he explained.

After the initial weeding out, the remaining applicants met over a four-day-and-night period with all the committees, ending up with the formal search committee, which included the heads of all the other committees, the associate principal, the director of special education, school board members and the chief financial officer and the superintendent.

Each of the favored applicants came for a day when students showed them around. “There were 17 students and one senior on the student committee,” John said. “I witnessed all the interviews.”

The 12-teacher committee, including the union president, interviewed the applicant, as did about nine members of the parent committee. And so on.

“It was brutal,” John said. “We did one person per day and I took them out to dinner. After dinner, the applicants met with the search committee.”

John said there was unanimity among members, who met in close session.  “She  [Dorfman] was certainly first choice.” John said.

John then took Dorfman to the school board, in early May, where he recommended her for the job.

“The whole process gave me insight into the candidate,” John reported, “and to all the constituent groups.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #63 (Wednesday, August 18, 2010).

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