Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent Search Down to Final Few

SOMSD interim Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra (center left) and Board of Education President Annemarie Maini (center right) February 25, 2019. Credit: Bruno J. Navarro.

The search for a new superintendent to lead the South Orange-Maplewood School District is nearing its conclusion, Board of Education President Annemarie Maini said Monday, Feb. 25.

West Hudson Associates — the search firm hired by the Board of Education — advertised the position in the Newark Star-Ledger and in Education Week, receiving 37 candidates for the position. Half of those “did not meet basic qualifications,” Maini said at the Board’s meeting on Monday evening.

After the search firm screened the top 16 candidates, the Board of Education agreed to interview seven candidates over the past month.

“The candidate pool was very strong and diverse,” Maini said.

Seven applicants were asked to return for a second round of interviews on February 9, 15 and Monday afternoon, though one person vying for the position declined additional participation.

“We’ll have additional information to share soon,” Maini added, without specifying a time frame. The Board of Education previously said that it was on track to hire a permanent superintendent by spring.

Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra has committed to serve as interim superintendent at least until June 2019; legally he is not permitted to remain in the position past July 31. Ficarra replaced John Ramos, who stepped down in August 2017, two years into a five-year contract that would have expired June 2020.

As part of the process of selecting a new superintendent, search consultant Dr. William Librera, executive director of West Hudson Associates — as well as a former state education commissioner and a former Columbia High School principal — developed a three-question, open-ended community survey last year and interviewed teachers, staff and Board of Education members about what qualities they sought in a leader for SOMA schools. In an update he provided in October, Librera said that top candidates for the position should have a track record of success, and that they would include those “who have done great work, who have shown what you can do with your people, doing things that other places can’t or won’t do.”

The SOMSD superintendent position is “not going to work for someone who thinks they can keep the status quo. They need to have a track record of doing really important work.”

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