BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor School Department is asking for participation from community members, as it works toward hiring a new superintendent.
Superintendent Betsy Webb held that role for Bangor public schools for 15 years before she retired in October 2020. Since then, the Bangor School Committee has been meeting every week for the past couple of months to determine a hiring process. Carin Sychterz is the chair of the committee and says it's rare a superintendent stays at a school district that long. She says the committee is looking for a "perfect" match for Bangor to try to make that happen again, and it's why she and her team want as many people as possible to give input.
Community members -- from parents, students, teachers, administrators, alumni, and anyone living or working in the city -- are being asked to fill out a survey, regarding what they would like to see in the next superintendent. Sychterz says it takes between eight and 15 minutes and includes sections where people can check boxes as to what areas of interest are important to them, as well as an open answer section. Sychterz says the information they receive will be used to determine a job description -- and guide some interview questions.
"We want to make sure that we do this right. We want to hire the best possible candidate that's going to really guide our schools forward," Sychterz emphasized.
Questions on the survey ask community members what competencies and qualities they're looking for in a superintendent -- like use of social media, effective communication, an emphasis on the arts and events, budget and finance expertise, ability to listen to students, and previous experience. The Bangor School Department consists of about 3,700 students, 600 employees, and a $49 million budget -- so the superintendent's responsibility is a big one.
The committee is also working to monitor racial and economic diversity during this process after complaints about discrimination within Bangor school came to light last year. The committee is working with the Maine School of Management during the search for a new superintendent. Members will be required to take implicit and interrupting bias trainings and expand their sourcing of candidates.
"Would we have done that three years ago? Probably not," Sychterz admitted. "Because of everything that has happened, it's allowing us to create a process that is going to guide the next 20 years of school committees -- and this superintendent search and future superintendent and administrative searches."
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Sychterz says parents and students should have received an email from the city and chamber of commerce about the survey. Community members can find it on the Bangor School Department's website and social media pages. You can also click here to access it.
The survey must be completed by Thursday, January 21 at 11:59 p.m. to give the committee enough time to go through responses. Sychterz says there will be at least one virtual community forum in February for community members to express their thoughts. That discussion will be used to help establish interview questions.