With the news that Scarsdale High School (SHS) Principal John Klemme was resigning, speculation began on who would replace him. Scarsdale 10583 recently met with
Superintendent Mike McGill to get his overview of how the job would be filled. He began with a caveat saying, “getting the job filled immediately is less important than getting the job filled correctly.” Dr McGill hopes that the Scarsdale community will get the message and be patient as the District goes though the process of identifying candidates, conducting extensive interviews and background checks and finding the best person to lead SHS forward.
The search will begin with ads in the New York Times as well as professional journals. Internal candidates may also come forward. “ At the same time,” Dr. McGill explained, “this will be an opportunity to examine where we’ve come from and delineate the major challenges and opportunities ahead.”
McGill says that since the District has done these searches before they have a standard procedure. “Of course we’ll be speaking with all our major constituencies and they will be part of the process.” Initially Dr. McGill said that department heads will talk with the faculty about priorities and ideal characteristics for a candidate. The PTA will canvas parents and student government leaders will be involved. Once a pool of candidates is identified, the resumes will be screened by a committee that will include a representative from all the constituencies (administration, faculty, parents, students). Then 10-15 candidates will undergo an interview process that will narrow the field to 4-5. “We are hopeful that we will find 2-3 outstanding candidates who will then meet for extensive interviews with a broad group that includes those already mentioned as well as members of the Board of Ed.” Dr. McGill also noted that in the final phase the District will conduct complete reference checks including conversations with the candidates’ current employers.
While we may think that candidates are going to be banging down the door, Dr. McGill dampens that optimism with his more recent experiences that have shown a shrinking pool of candidates. “We used to get 75-100 qualified resumes when we advertised for a principal and that is just not happening any more. People are more conservative about changing jobs and let’s face it, we know Scarsdale has an A1 reputation but the word’s out that it’s also a very demanding place. Of course to know us is to love us and in the end we just need one excellent candidate.” Dr. McGill cited the recent search at Mamaroneck High School where he understands there just weren’t a lot of qualified candidates available. While there is a possibility that a candidate may be selected by the fall, the administration believes it will be necessary make an interim appointment. As reported in 10583, John Klemme will return in April and will finish up the year.
Dr. McGill has not put together his definitive list but said ideal qualifications include: educational vision, congruence with the work being done on thinking skills and higher order skills, and interest in interdisciplinary work. “There are also personal qualities including, high energy, interest in connecting with teachers, parents and students, resilience, leadership, exemplary character, strong academic background…just to mention a few.” “One danger,” noted Dr. McGill, “is that you look at the strengths and weaknesses of the last principal and try to make up for them in the next candidate. But that’s a mistake. You need to just look forward and stay focused on the job requirements and the desired skill set. In the end, this is a very productive process. It’s an opportunity for all the people who have been working on different pieces of the puzzle to come together and help the institution define its direction for the future.”
Anna Decker is a longtime community volunteer. She was President of the HS PTA, PT Council and has served on numerous school and community boards. In her former life she was in charge of Corporate Communications for the Institutional Bank at Citicorp and she continues to do a variety of freelance projects.