LOWELL -- What it's going to take to be Lowell's next superintendent of schools has become a bit clearer.

Insight into the position -- one that's been shrouded by turmoil recently in Lowell -- was provided by a panel of experts on the topic during a community forum hosted by Mayor William Samaras and Project LEARN Wednesday night.

The search to fill the job came about after former Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui was terminated in a 4-3 vote by the School Committee in November. The district announced it will be accepting applications for the position until April 2.

Panelist Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, detailed some qualities sought out by a potential superintendent, which included a "high-functioning" school committee with a strong working relationship and culture, as well as community support and engagement, including organizations such as Project LEARN.

"Any good quality candidate -- it's a two-way process," Scott said. "You're evaluating them, their experience, the way they work, how they fit into your expectations of them, but in turn, any good candidate will do the same."

Scott also referenced a candidate's exploration into the track record of past superintendents within the school district -- a topic referenced by City Councilor Vesna Nuon when he addressed the panel Wednesday night.


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"Given the fact that the last 10 years, the Lowell school system has had, I think, four or five school superintendents, how would you classify that School Committee culture?" Nuon asked. "Should anyone ever dare apply for superintendent?"

Panelist Colleen Dawicki, a member of the New Bedford School Committee, pointed out a high turnover rate among superintendents is not unique, as her school district encountered a similar situation. Dawicki also addressed a question from Lowell resident Jonathan Richmond, who suggested bringing in an interim superintendent for a year, providing the district more time to find the ideal candidate.

Dawicki pointed out the process is already underway. The district has provided the job's availability in journals and other publications, and has contracted with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees to manage the search. The School Committee also appointed a blue ribbon committee, a group of community members to review applications to narrow down job finalists.

School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr., who stepped up to the microphone, suggested an appointment from within the district. He recommended setting up a safety net, allowing the candidate the ability to return to their position if the superintendent position didn't work out.

Panelist Cheryl Camacho, special assistant to Massachusetts Commissioner for Education, raised the question, what does the Lowell District need right now?

"When you keep somebody who is internal, the district is more likely to stay as it is," Camacho said. "It is less likely to experience dramatic change."

The School Committee began discussing a search for superintendent in January when acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin said she would not seek the permanent position. Durkin plans to step down in mid-August and return to her position as Deputy Superintendent for Student Support Services.

According to the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents website, the job offers a salary of $205,000 to $225,000, along with negotiable benefits.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis