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Letter: Critical choice of new superintendent should involve community but not politics – We-Ha

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Dear Editor:

After 26 years in the West Hartford school system, Tom Moore is leaving for a new opportunity. While few may disagree, by any objective measure, Tom Moore has provided exemplary leadership of West Harford Public Schools since 2014 as Superintendent. In a job where an employee’s tenure is typically less than two years, he has thrived for eight years and has only increased the respect other communities have for public education in West Hartford. He was Superintendent of the Year for the State of Connecticut in 2021. He provided the type of leadership that made it possible to name schools or libraries in their honor.

Now West Hartford faces the daunting task of finding a replacement. The school board will lead this effort. It won’t be easy.

If you think masks or school mascots were a challenge for the board, you ain’t seen nothing yet! I expect the process of finding and vetting the new superintendent to be controversial and risky. It also presents West Hartford with a huge opportunity.

With many townspeople of the opinion that the board of trustees rushed the school mascot decision and did not take enough time for public comment and comment, it is certain that there will be scrutiny not only of the final candidate, but also of the process of their hiring. as well as. With a recent successful recall effort in San Francisco, many other communities are gearing up for potential recall votes and BOEs across the country have been preparing for increased community engagement on a myriad of issues. Perhaps the most scrutinized is a superintendent hire.

My message to the community: Get involved. Use facts, not guesses, to express your opinions. Many recent BOE meetings have seen angry residents verbally attack the BOE and Tom Moore for school mask policies that were set and mandated at the state level, not the local level. This included name-calling, insults and shouting. Local officials had no say in the mandate and were probably as relieved as everyone when state mandates were relaxed a short time ago.

Another example of misinformation is the notion of “indoctrination” of children and the forced training in critical race theory taught to children of all ages. Spoiler alert, it’s not taught in West Hartford schools. Ronni Newton and I quizzed the board members, including the then chairman, on this very subject on one of our shows and the video is there for all to see on the website of WHCI. It’s a scary term only. Unfortunately, it worked.

The school board is also responsible for managing this process. It cannot be rushed or appear to be rushed for any reason. Superintendent Moore will remain in his current role until the end of June. This gives the board months to carefully and thoughtfully organize its research plan. Personal agendas need to be set aside and the board needs to realize that to get the right person on board, the public is going to be passionately engaged in the process. BOE members will receive letters, emails and phone calls. Some of them probably very angry sometimes. They signed up for this when they decided to run for the job and are expected to respond in a timely manner and hear what the public has to say.

Board members must set aside their personal political agendas. I liken the BOE to a captain steering a huge ship, “steady as it goes”. Follow the process through to the end, involve the community as much as humanly possible, be transparent in your thoughts and actions, listen and focus on hiring a competent, process-oriented leader and administrator , NOT an activist.

For my part, I have great confidence in both the BOE and the public. I want to be part of the process and I can’t wait to see this come to fruition. I encourage all residents (whether you have children in schools or not) to watch and participate. This has the opportunity to be a bright and shining time for schools in West Hartford. I want to be able to celebrate success on our new superintendent’s eventual start date and hope we can all do that once that happens.

John Lyons
West Hartford