Tannia Talento, Arlington School Board

Arlington School Board Chairman Tannia Talento.


Staff Writer

The Arlington school system will hold a series of upcoming community meetings to gather input for the qualities sought in its next superintendent.

“This is really important,” School Board Chairman Tannia Talento said of gathering community feedback, pointing out it has been 10 years since the last time there was such a vacancy.

“We don’t enter these crossroads often – your input is valuable in making sure we are making good decisions,” Talento said at the Jan. 9 School Board meeting.

The School Board needs to replace Patrick Murphy, who had served in the post since 2009 but left last summer to take a position in West Virginia.

The school system has contracted with an Illinois firm called BWP and Associates to assist with the search process. Applications will be taken through March 10 for a post that likely will pay about $250,000 a year.

Community forums are slated as follows:

• Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at Washington-Liberty High School.

• Saturday, Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. at Wakefield High School and also at Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

• Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School (conducted in Spanish).

All of the forums will feature the same material and ask the same questions of participants. “Please attend the community forum that is the most convenient,” Talento said.

The school system also will place a community survey on its Website (www.apsva.us) from Jan. 21 to Feb. 2 to gather input. More information is available at www.apsva.us/engage.

While the public-engagement process to date is in line with those conducted when previous superintendent vacancies have cropped up, it remains to be seen whether the public will have the chance to vet finalists when they are selected. In past superintendent searches, the names of finalists were not made public.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, School Board members formally requested that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction grant the school system a waiver from state regulations that a new superintendent must be hired within 180 days of the departure of the previous one.

“While our search process is well under way, we will not be ready to make an appointment within 180 days,” Talento said.

Since Murphy’s departure, the top slot in the school system has been filled by Cintia Johnson.

None of the five incumbent School Board members was in office when Murphy was chosen in 2009, so none has previous expertise in a search process. But “we’re focused on getting it right,” Talento said at a previous board meeting.

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