Editorial: Bristol-Warren's hiring fast-track

Posted 11/14/19

The Bristol Warren Regional School District has a new (permanent) superintendent, and most people will not be surprised to see it’s the guy who’s been at the forefront of district …

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Editorial: Bristol-Warren's hiring fast-track

Posted

The Bristol Warren Regional School District has a new (permanent) superintendent, and most people will not be surprised to see it’s the guy who’s been at the forefront of district maneuvers for the past three months.

Dr. Jonathan Brice, who has been lead cheerleader, motivator and spokesman since the day he walked into Bristol and Warren back in July, has been chosen as the permanent replacement for the departed Dr. Mario Andrade.

From all appearances, Dr. Brice is a beloved new addition to the district. His energy and passion are contagious.

But the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee did him no favors by hiring him the way it did — aside from the healthy employment contract, of course.

In many communities, the search for a new superintendent of schools can be a nine- to twelve-month process, consisting of a broad search for applicants, multiple rounds of winnowing candidates, public interviews, etc. In Bristol Warren, it took three weeks and it was handled by a few members of the school board.

Dr. Andrade resigned in late June. The school committee posted the opening on a leading school administration job board immediately afterward. It screened five applicants and named Dr. Brice the interim superintendent less than four weeks later.

At the time, it seemed like a lightning-fast hire, especially considering the district already had an interim superintendent in place. Assistant Superintendent Diane Sanna was named to that role the same night Dr. Andrade resigned.

However, since Dr. Brice was announced as a one-year interim superintendent, and he came to the job with so much energy, he was widely applauded and welcomed, and the move seemed to make sense.

Considering Dr. Brice was never a superintendent at any level before coming here, it seemed natural that the district would take his year of interim leadership as an opportunity to launch a wide, open and ambitious search for a new superintendent. But that never happened. The school committee never revisited the search process, never advertised the permanent opening, never screened another candidate.

Time may reveal that Dr. Brice is the best man for the job. But how would anyone know? Turns out he was the only man for the job.

If for no other reason than to cement Dr. Brice’s credibility as, without a doubt, the best possible leader for this district, the school committee should have conducted a full search for a permanent superintendent, giving him the chance to emerge as, unequivocally, the best candidate. Ironically, this is exactly what the district did six years ago, when it chose not to conduct a widespread search and hired from within “the best man for the job” — Mario Andrade, who was promoted from assistant superintendent to superintendent without anyone else being considered.

It’s been a decade since the Bristol Warren school district conducted a real search for a superintendent of schools. The public school community, and Dr. Brice, deserved one this year.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.