Does district need two top administrators?

The Bristol Warren Assistant Superintendent is tasked with many duties, especially having to do with curriculum, including chairing the Curriculum Committee, applying for curriculum-related grants, supervising pre-K curriculum, etc.

The assistant superintendent is also something of a vice president, who can fill the superintendent’s shoes when necessary and, ultimately, replace the school chief when he or she retires or resigns. Such has been the case in Bristol-Warren, which has had a string of superintendents who have remained for just a few years before retiring or moving on. Melinda Thies — herself previously the assistant superintendent — is the latest to leave after just a handful of years, retiring to attend law school.

With such turnover at the top, it makes sense to slide a superintendent’s right hand into the top role to help maintain continuity and consistency of service, lending added importance to the assistant role.

But this time should be different. The School Committee tabbed Assistant Superintendent Mario Andrade to replace Ms. Thies without conducting a search for candidates, the thinking being that Mr. Andrade was hired as a capable administrator in the first place, so an expensive search is unnecessary when a qualified candidate is already in-house. Mr. Andrade is a younger man, far from retirement age, who clearly has the committee’s unwavering support (again, they didn’t seek other candidates). If things go well, he could be leading the school district for many years to come.

So why the rush to hire an assistant superintendent?

Certainly the role involves more than being a second superintendent, and its duties need to be performed by someone. Yet those duties were performed by “someone” for many years before the assistant superintendent role was created; it’s a relatively new position to this district. Taxpayers can reasonably question if a district this size needs both a superintendent and an assistant superintendent.

The search is on for Mr. Andrade’s replacement, before the position is even vacated. Nineteen applications have been filed and an 11-member search committee has been assigned to fill the position that carries a salary range of $100,000-$115,000. Given the financial constraints on the school district and the ever-dwindling payouts from the state for education aid, it’s worth considering the wisdom of filling the position so quickly.