AP NEWS

Future of City Schools in Their Hands

February 20, 2019

LOWELL -- A committee with the power to whittle down school superintendent applicants to a handful of finalists will start to take shape Wednesday.

A subcommittee of the Lowell School Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall to discuss the makeup of this “blue ribbon” committee, among other topics.

“I’m hoping we’ll walk away with that plan in place as well as the timeline,” said School Committee member Connie Martin who chairs the Personnel Subcommittee.

She said the meeting will be a chance for School Committee members to discuss the make-up of this group of stake holders before finalizing it at a full meeting. According to Martin, it will also act as another chance for members of the community to comment on the superintendent search process and build on feedback gathered during a sparsely attended meeting last month.

In the days leading up to the meeting, members of the School Committee have proposed different visions for this group, which will be tasked with narrowing applicants to a small number of superintendent finalists to the Lowell School Committee.

Mayor William Samaras said he would like to see a 19-person committee. It would include three union representatives -- a teacher, clerk and administrator -- and two Lowell High School students. Additionally, it would include three parents and three teachers, one from each of the three levels, elementary middle and high school levels. The committee would also have representatives from the following: Project LEARN, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Middlesex Community College, the Cambodian community, the Latino community, the black community and possibly two other community leaders.

Samaras said the board would be of a similar size or larger than past committees. He believes this is necessary to get community input, particularly from minority communities, which have not had specific representation during past searches.

School Committee member Gerry Nutter is advocating for a smaller group, between nine and 13 people, primarily made up of “new faces.”

He proposed four union representatives: two from the teacher’s union, a clerk and an administrator. It would also include representatives from the Lowell High School Student Council, business community, health community, a nonprofit, a youth group or youth sports and at least three parents.

Nutter said he also plans to advocate for a non-voting chair appointed by the Lowell School Committee. He said he would like to leave organizations involved in past efforts, like the Lowell Education Justice Alliance and Project LEARN, off the committee.

“I think we need to get new voices,” he said.

Last month, School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr. suggested an even smaller committee, between seven and nine people, with an emphasis on representation for the city’s minority groups.

Martin said she doesn’t have a specific proposal for the committee, but would like to see a “fairly tight” committee of less than 20 people with members who haven’t participated in this type of process before.

“I think the key to it will be populating it with a wide range of perspectives,” she said.

The meeting on Wednesday will also include discussion of the contract with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to facilitate the process, including a visit from a representative from the organization.

Members are also expected to discuss the posting of the Human Resource Director position.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins