Though few township residents – just eight, to be exact – came to a public forum on the selection of a new schools superintendent Wednesday night, a spirited discussion on the good, the bad and the ugly transpired.
The forum was conducted by Dr. William Librera, a former state education commissioner, and Dr. Peter Bastardo, a former schools superintendent and current professor of education. The pair are consultants with West Hudson Associates, a firm assisting the Board of Education in their search for a new leader of Brick's school district.
Criteria based on information gleaned from the public meeting will be a factor in the selection of a new superintendent, Librera said.
The forum focused on three main areas – the positives of the district, areas for improvement in the district, and the qualities a new superintendent should possess to be successful in Brick.
Librera said 38 people responded to a survey posted on the district's website on the matter, and certain themes – such as a superintendent who has experience overseeing facilities projects – came up as patterns.
At the meeting, the few residents who attended voiced concern, however, over several areas in need of improvement in the school district.
"The quality of the superintendent, at this juncture, will determine whether this town falls off the cliff or gets on track," said Karyn Cusanelli, a township resident whose children have attended district schools.
Cusanelli suggested a superintendent should have excellent communication skills to engage the community, and should bolster the opportunities for students to take more challenging classes to help prepare for college.
"There are a lot of kids who are academically talented, but you have to fight for everything for these kids," she said.
Other residents said standardizing curriculum between schools should be a priority for the district, as well as engaging both parents and the business community to help foster more support among residents for the school system.
The discussion wasn't all negative, however. Cusanelli praised the district's teachers, and fellow resident Vic Fanelli praised the current school board majority, saying they are not backed by either major political party in town and are "getting things done."
John Barton said that the Brick district has a strong history, and the next superintendent will have the opportunity to renew that concept.
"That's what this superintendent has to bring back to us," Barton said.
Librera said, in his view, Brick has suffered from a lack of continuity. After all, he said, the district has gone through four superintendents in the last 10 years.
"That's not a recipe for sustained continuity and positive growth," he said.
The district's new superintendent will have to be given a chance, said Bastardo.
"The first couple of years you're going to turn over a lot of rocks, and some people are going to be unhappy," he said. "By year four, people are going to come on board because they can see the changes."
West Hudson Associates is currently advertising the opening and will conduct initial interviews and screenings with candidates based on a set of criteria consultants develop specific to Brick.
Board members will then conduct additional interviews with candidates. West Hudson, once a candidate is favored by the board, will conduct a final background investigation and check references.
The board has the final say on the matter. Interviews may begin in early May, with a new superintendent ready to be appointed in June, Librera said.
Current superintendent Walter Hrycenko will bump down to assistant superintendent, a position in which he holds tenure, after the new schools chief takes the reigns.