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Search firm hired to find new superintendent

Published 2:20 pm, Thursday, December 12, 2013
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The search is on for the new Darien Public Schools superintendent.

The Board of Education unanimously voted, at its Tuesday, Dec. 11 meeting, to appoint the New England School Development Council to serve as the firm to search for a replacement for Stephen Falcone, who resigned Oct. 22.

"Our success in this search process can have a profound effect on the quality of education in our community for years to come," Board of Education Vice Chairman Heather Shea said in a prepared statement.

"Like a conductor, he or she will guide our shared community vision of exemplary student performance, manage disparate components and constituents to ensure progress toward that goal and serve as a model for inspired leadership."

The board selected NESDEC following interviews with several search firms, Shea said. Work will immediately begin to develop a schedule and to determine what is desired for the new superintendent.

According to Shea, the design of the schedule will "maximize the participation of school and community stakeholders while creating an inviting process for state, regional and national candidates."

The search is expected to take 120 days, Shea said, with the new schools chief in place for the start of the 2014-15 academic year. NESDEC locates the potential candidates for the Board of Education to interview based on the qualifications required by the district.

"There are many lessons to be learned from the past year," Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross said at the Representative Town Meeting's State of the Town on Monday. "The Board of Education and new staff have taken many steps to strengthen our district and improve the education and communication system in Darien Public schools."

Lynne Pierson, who has 40 years of educational experience, was hired as the interim superintendent on Nov. 12.

"As with previous superintendent searches, it is essential to have our parents' and community members' input as the board moves forward with the most important decision for our town and the Board of Education," Hagerty-Ross said at the State of the Town.

The NESDEC, which was established in 1946 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, helps schools and districts become "high performance organizations and to support continuous educational improvement," according to Shea. The NESDEC, which has completed more than 500 executive leadership searches in New England, will also be able to pool resources from across the country through its membership with the National School Development Council.

It is not known how much the board will pay NESDEC to locate superintendent candidates.

Falcone has received criticism following the state Department of Education's report that found special education law had been broken on numerous occasions during the 2012-13 school year under the direction of Deirdre Osypuk, who has been on paid administrative leave since June 17.

Falcone resigned after it was discovered that he was in possession of a September 2012 letter that lambasted the state of the special education department following the hiring of Director of Special Education and Services Osypuk.

"I believe there's a silver lining even in the challenges we currently face in our special education program," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said in the State of the Town address. "I'm confident that our board and staff will be relentless in their pursuit of excellence in serving all our students and make whatever changes are necessary to guarantee this for generations to come."

Falcone was recently appointed as the director of human resources for Stamford Public Schools.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews