The Trenton Board of Education announced its plans to interview superintendent candidates in executive sessions at its Wednesday and Thursday board meetings this week. This came as a surprise to members of the staff unions working in Trenton schools.
“After a revolving door of superintendents, one would hope the school board would consider bringing all parties to the table to ensure they select the right candidate for a change,” explained Trenton Education Association (TEA) President Talithea Duncan. “Trenton students, families, and staff deserve a superintendent who truly understands the needs of our community. We need a superintendent who is willing to work collaboratively with us and is committed to doing so for the long run.”
Since 2010, Trenton has had eight “permanent,” acting, or interim superintendents. The board has been secretive during this latest search, not disclosing any of the candidates’ names or including any of the staff unions in interviews. The board meetings scheduled for this week will be virtual meetings despite a push by the board to bring staff and students back into school buildings. The public will not be included in the candidate interviews since they will be conducted in executive session. A public comment session will be held after the closed interviews.
Two board members seem focused on candidates with business backgrounds which TEA believes is not in the best interest of students. “School finances are difficult to manage which is why school districts hire a business administrator or a chief financial officer,” explained Duncan. “The school superintendent should be the leader with the vision and experience to help students learn. Business experience isn’t as important as a proven record of success in elevating students of color.
“We don’t understand why the board isn’t being more transparent,” added Duncan. “Our members, as well as those in the Trenton Paraprofessionals Association, the Trenton Educational Secretaries Association, and Trenton Business & Technical Association, are the ones who work in our schools and know how they function. We know what our students and staff need to help Trenton schools succeed. Cutting us out of the process is short-sighted and disrespectful. The last time we were invited into the process, the board hired Dr. James Lytle who was a committed superintendent for eight years. Perhaps the board should consider the value of including us in the interviews.”