The search is on for new superintendent of schools in Medford

MEDFORD — For what is believed to be the first time ever, the School Committee will expand its search outside the school system to seek out its next superintendent of schools.

Only two men have held the post in the last 50 years, the 23 years served by outgoing Superintendent Roy Belson, who took over in 1994 after the retirement of late former Supt. Raymond Murano, who served 28 years.

Both Belson and Murano were elevated to their positions from within the administration and longtime Medford residents say this has been the unofficial protocol for many decades before that as well.

But the School Committee ditched its initial plan, which was to conduct an internal search within the public schools for a candidate and recommend a replacement for Belson. If the internal search didn’t produce a a suitable superintendent, the search would then be opened to external candidates.

Instead, the School Committee voted unanimously to open the search to all candidates, both internal and external and proceed from that starting point to evaluate and assess applicants.

The members also voted to use the services of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) to help filter applications and get advice on the interview process.

It was the most veteran School Committee member, Paulette Van der Kloot, who pushed for one search rather than a split search. “If we go internally and then decide to open it up to external candidates it might give the impression we do not support internal candidates whom we have already screened,” Van der Kloot said.

She and other members also noted they foresaw a dearth in internal candidates as well. No internal candidates in the Medford Public Schools have made their intentions known, but Medford High headmaster Dr. John Perella was a recent candidate for Peabody superintendent before another candidate was chosen. Medford Assistant Supt. Beverly Nelson has been in that post for 20 years and there is also speculation about her intentions.

Medford Mayor Stephanie M. Burke chairs the School Committee and will head up the Superintendent Search Committee, which will whittle applications to a group of finalists for public interviews. The committee will include Burke, two other School Committee members, parents of students representing the three levels of education, secondary, elementary and middle school, representatives of specialized education groups, and Medford Public Schools Director of Diversity Neil Osborne.

The final vote on the selection of the next superintendent will be that of the entire School Committee.

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