Bridgehampton’s Superintendent search officially began last week when private search firm School Leadership spent all of last Wednesday meeting with school administrators, staff, students, and parents to determine what qualities the community desires in their new Superintendent. Their meetings ended with an open community forum Wednesday night where about 15 people attended, including board member Ron White.
School Leadership, it should be noted, is the same private firm that recruited Sag Harbor Superintendent Dr. John Gratto two years ago and consists of Dr. Charles Fowler, Dr. Albert Inserra, and Dr. Frank Chiachiere, all educators who have either been superintendents themselves or have experience in education and educational recruiting. Only Inserra and Chiachiere were in attendance that evening. Chiachiere reassured the people in attendance “this will be about my twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh superintendent search. We all have significant experience recruiting people.”
School Leadership did wait for about ten minutes before starting the meeting, perhaps hoping more people would show up, and then begun by asking the community for three things. Chiachiere asked, “What are the attractions of this community? What are the immediate major challenges you face? And what characteristics are important for your superintendent to have?”
Two themes came out of the meeting. One was the desire to find a candidate who was, or would be, connected to the Bridgehampton community, and understand that the school operated more like a family than an institution. The second concern was the lack of turn out for the forum; and concerns that, while the community passionately wanted to be involved in the search, they were not succeeding in showing up and having their voice heard by either the search firm or the school board.
White, who was just elected to the board this year, made an impassioned plea to the members of the community who had come on a cold winter’s night to hear the presentation. His statements came in response to Ava Mack’s declaration that the community’s issues needed to be answered by Student Leadership right away because “we may never get any response from the board.”
“At every board meeting there are two places were the public can address the board. You need to be there at the public sessions, and if you don’t agree with the search specifications say something,” said White. “The board has to listen to you. You have to understand that we work for you. Don’t come in anxiousness, come in patience, and if we don’t listen, rally; because this is a great opportunity to get involved.”
School parent, Stephan Kotz, also expressed concern there weren’t many parents in attendance that night. He asked School Leadership if they had specifically met with parents during the day, which they hadn’t, and then added: “I asked that because there’s not a big turn out tonight. Maybe we should have another one of these in a month.”
Kotz pointed out that Bridgehampton’s community often takes a little longer to get involved; but once they do they are very passionate about and committed to the school.
Chiachiere and Inserra both pointed out they needed to present their findings to the board next week and the board needed to approve the recruiting specification then so they could start advertising the position in the New Year.
Inserra noted this search would take more time than usual since “not that many people are interested in being a superintendent now. We really have to get on the phone and try to convince people to apply. We used to get 60 applications for a position now we might only get 20 or 25. And currently there are already a lot of superintendent jobs out there.”
Inserra also said in response to the aforementioned concerns about the search specifications; “we are expecting the board to adopt the specifications during an open meeting. We are suggesting this to them.” However, he added it was really up to the board to decide how they wanted to proceed.
In returning to the specifics of the job, Bridgehampton alum and school parent Angel Pinckney said, “We need a superintendent that knows this is a family based school. We have to have someone who is willing to hear what people are saying.”
An employee of the district, Mack, told School Leadership, “I want a person who is willing to stay for the long term, and someone who has experience working with a diverse community. We need someone who cares about kids but who can also inspire them to go on to attend the best universities. I’d like the community to be brought in to evaluate a candidate.” Again Inserra mentioned that was the board’s, not School Leadership’s, decision to make.
School Leadership did feel confident they could find a candidate to replace current superintendent Dr. Diane Youngblood by the summer. Inserra stated, “We are hoping to make an appointment by May or June.”