School Committees in each city or town are responsible for hiring the superintendent according to Massachusetts General Law, If the Lowell School Committee were performing the entire process, it would have to be public which would likely reduce the number of candidates who would apply.
By going with a Screening Committee the hope is to attract a wider group of candidates who names would not get made public.
Massachusetts Open Meeting Law allows for a screening committee to conduct the preliminary screening process in executive session to protect the privacy and confidentiality of all candidates.
School Committee’s CANNOT hold such meetings!
Purposes for Executive Session
8. To consider or interview applicants for employment or appointment by a preliminary screening committee if the chair declares that an open meeting will have a detrimental effect in obtaining qualified applicants; provided, however, that this clause shall not apply to any meeting, including meetings of a preliminary screening committee, to consider and interview applicants who have passed a prior preliminary screening;
This purpose permits a hiring subcommittee of a public body or a preliminary screening committee to conduct the initial screening process in executive session.This purpose does not apply to any stage in the hiring process
after the screening committee or subcommittee votes to recommend candidates to its parent body. It may, however, include a review of résumé and multiple rounds of interviews by the screening committee aimed at narrowing the group of applicants down to finalists. At the time that the executive session is proposed and voted on, the chair must state on the record that having the discussion in an open session will be detrimental to the public body’s ability to attract qualified applicants for the position. If the public body opts to convene a preliminary screening committee, the committee must contain less than a quorum of the members of the parent public body. The committee may also contain members who are not members of the parent public body.
Note that a public body is not required to create a preliminary screening committee to consider or interview applicants. However, if the body chooses to conduct the review of applicants itself, it may not do so in executive session.
For Example if there were a Special Ed Administrator in Chelmsford or a Superintendent in Dracut who wanted to apply but didn’t want their present employer to know, then they would not apply to the public process. By using a screening committee which can have an executive session for interviewing and where it is supposed to be only the finalist names who become public, these candidates could apply without fear of their present employer knowing.
By using a screening Committee it offers candidates the ability to apply without fear of their current employer finding out unless and until they get named a finalist.
I’m told that in the past School Committee members were kept off this type of Screening Committee because some felt they would have an unfair influence or because some faction didn’t want members of other factions or political leanings on. I say to bad, times have changed!
In my view the role of a School Committee is clear, WE hire a Superintendent, having members serving on the screening committee insures that OUR voice is heard all during the process. It insures or should insure all candidates who are qualified get an interview and our presence should negate any pressure by the UTL Union leader or staff who to may try to intimidate or provide undo pressure. Any member of the School Committee who is serving can and should make sure all candidates are treated fairly.
Surprisingly only one School Committee member Dominic Lay claimed to have NO INTEREST in serving on this screening committee, all other 5 members (Ms Martin,MS Doherty, Mr. Hoey, Mr. Decouteaux and myself) all want to be included but in all likelihood it will be only 2 or 3 members.
We are elected to hire the Superintendent and we should be part of the entire process including the screening committee.