Dr. John Whritner and Dr. Deborah Raizes met with 20 persons Thursday evening at White Plains High School to receive community input on the strengths of the school district, issues facing the school community, and the skills they would like to see in a new Superintendent of Schools. Another Forum gets under way Friday morning at 10 AM at Education House.
Thursday evening was the first of four public forums in which the two consultants from Hazard Young Attia hope to create a profile of the kind of superintendent of schools White Plains needs, based on residents’ input.
Good “hunting” time. District turmoil no problem.
Whritner explained under questioning from the audience that the search was beginning at what he described as the prime “hunting” season for superintendents looking to leave.
He advised the gathering the current estrangement between the Board of Education and the community over the Saul Yanofsky dismissal would not be a problem. He said superintendents looking to leave are most likely having problems with their own Board of Education. “They understand Board dynamics,” he said.
Whritner is a tall rangy confidence-inspiring gentlemen, who, with his partner, Deborah Raizes, a dynamo of a search consultant who has placed 30 superintendents in just 4 years with Hazard, Young Attia, conducted an orderly give-and-take that drew out the residents to share their fears, concerns and wishes for a new “super” superintendent.
The Search Is On.
Whritner said an advertisement had already been placed in Education Week, and that candidates would be contacted discreetly through the Hazard Young Attia “search network.”
The text of the advertisement just out in Education Week and on the Education Week job availabilities website reads,
Superintendent, White Plains, NY
White Plains Public Schools
White Plains, NY
Located in Westchester County, the White Plains Public Schools have a long history of impressive accomplishments. The diverse student body of 6,700 is served by a Pre-K program, five elementary schools, a middle school with two campuses and one high school. The District has a large industrial and commercial base. The parents and community members insist on high academic achievement for all students.
Screening begins early March.
Hazard, Young, Attea & Assoc., Ltd.
1151 Waukegan Road • Glenview, IL 60025
Tel: 847-724-8465 • Fax: 847-724-8467
An Equal Opportunity Employer
District may have to go to $200,000 Salary Level
Dr. Whritner said that the district was highly desirable and indicated that the tri-state area considers $200,000 a year as the new standard for attracting topflight candidates for a prime position. He feels this will be a factor in attracting candidates, considering the demand for experienced superintendents of schools.
Hazard, Young Advises Review of Candidates be Private Up to Time the Finalist is Selected.
One parent asked if a handful of finalists could be presented to a committee of citizens under a guarantee of confidentiality. Whritner said it has been his experience confidentiality is hard to maintain.
He and Dr. Raizes said actual candidates most likely would not be introduced to the community until the Board of Education had reached a tentative agreement with a finalist agreed in principle to take the position. At that time he or she would be introduced, Whritner suggested.
This discreet search policy is the recommendation of HYA, and not that of the White Plains Board of Education. It is Hazard Young’s advice to conduct the search with as much privacy as possible to appeal to the most desirable candidates.
Whritner told WPCNR, “Though the Board wanted to be as open as possible, it is our advice to handle it this way (discreetly).”
Standard practice in the business.
Dr. Raizes said that the private search is more than ever the practice these days, due to the shortage of qualified superintendents and principals. She said that damage is done in a candidate’s current district when superintendents are discovered searching for a position while they still have their present placement.
Raizes recalled a search where one of the finalists was made public, and she said he did not get the job: “It has taken him a year and a half to rebuild his relationship with his district,” she said.
Whritner assured WPCNR that the White Plains Board of Education would not sign a contract without introducing the finalist to the community.
Residents expressed very little references to Dr. Saul Yanofsky, the Superintendent of Schools who has just five months and three weeks to go on his contract.
Concerns voiced by parents centered equally on three areas:
1.)The need for the new superintendent who can “sell” the district to both upscale universities, real estate students and young residents to rebuild the reputation of the White Plains schools.
Several parents said the district had been damaged by negative publicity generated by Westchester Magazine and the messy Yanofsky dismissal. Two worried that trends in college admissions did not favor White Plains, and spoke of the perceived “flight” from the district by parents with elementary children.
Several residents supported this view, while two longtime residents of the city pointed out that the same fears of “flight” were being expressed “40 years ago” when their children were going to school in the district.
2.) The need for the superintendent to be a strong academic. One person said they wanted a person with the experience of both teaching and supervising in elementary, middle and high school environments. Another suggested the ability to introduce innovative programs to strengthen the elementary schools more that was strongly endorsed. Another parent urged changing elementary schools so all offered the same programs.
3.) The need for the superintendent to care about parents and children in the district and be able to inspire and motivate supervisors and teachers.
Strengths of the district were touted as strong parent involvement, music and the arts program, dedicated teachers.
Looking to Interview about 15 candidates
Raizes told WPCNR that she expected to be interviewing approximately 10 to 15 candidates, depending on HY & A network contacts and responses from the national advertising which started this week in “Education Week.”
She expected to conduct two hour interviews with each, and Whritner said from these six they hoped to present six finalists to the Board in March. This would be narrowed to finalists by April, Whritner said, with a hire decision slated for early May before Board of Education elections. There are no candidates as of today,Whritner said, and no applications from present employees of the School District.
Second Forum Takes Place at Ed House this morning at 10 AM
Dr. Whritner and Dr. Raizes will conduct another listening and learning forum this morning at Education House at 10 AM at 5 Homeside Lane.
The third forum will be Sunday at 12:30 at St. Bernards Church, Chapel Hall, and the final opportunity to tell the two consultants your take on the issues will be Wednesday at 7 PM at Bethel Baptist Church, North Street and Bryant Avenue.
Community leaders and officers of city groups will have an opportunity to give their opinions at 2 PM Wednesday at Education House.
Profile to be Presented January 29 at Education House
Whritner advised that the final profile based on the information they receive by mail and in-person at the forums will be presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening, January 29 at Education House at 8 PM.
Crowd of 20 Dissappoints attendees
One parent said they were upset that only twenty persons had shown up for the evening meeting when over 100 persons had turned out for the December board of Education meeting to protest.
Dr. Whritner said that attendance of around 20 was “normal” for these kind of meetings in his experience.
The meeting was calm. No rancor was demonstrated by any speakers in sharp contrast to meetings in November and December when over 100 persons showed up at each alternately haranguing and criticizing the school board over the Yanofsky departure.