Palmer’s appointment as next superintendent expected soon, pending Weston visit
A delegation of Westport school officials, teachers and parents will visit Weston on Thursday to conduct what is expected to be a final interview before Colleen Palmer is formally named the next superintendent of Westport’s public schools, Michael Gordon, the Board of Education chairman, said after the board’s Tuesday meeting.
He said he expects a final decision on hiring Palmer — Weston’s superintendent since 2011 — could be made as early as the end of this week. Westport school officials announced last month that Palmer is the lone finalist to replace Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon, who plans to retire at the end of the academic year in the spring. They said at the time that, barring unexpected issues, they expected to formally appoint Palmer to the post sometime in January.
It is rare for a job candidate to reach the site-visit stage of the hiring process and not win the board’s formal support for the position, he said in the interview.
“The chief liaison of our search firm said that in her 18 years doing this only one time has the site visit negatively affected the finalist. So we’re very optimistic,” Gordon said.
“We’ve spent a fair amount of time with Dr. Palmer also before selecting her as the finalist. There will be productive discussions and a series of meetings on Thursday, but we’re also very optimistic.”
During its visit, the delegation will meet for a half day with Weston school officials, teachers and parents to question them directly on what they consider Palmer’s strengths and weaknesses as the top administrator in a school district, like Westport, considered to be one of the best in the state. Prior to serving as superintendent in Weston, Palmer had been the schools chief in Monroe for several years.
The delegation will comprise 18 or 19 people, including the entire Westport school board, school administrators, members of the parent-teacher association and the teachers’ union.
“We believe her to be a very strong academic leader, that’s the most important thing. That’s first and foremost. We also want a candidate who is strong at community relations and we want to hear how she’s worked with the different stakeholders,” Gordon said.
After the site visit, the board, in its capacity as the superintendent search committee, will move forward with a vote, he added.
In Weston, Palmer oversees a school district with approximately 2,400 students — Westport has about 5,650 students — and 400 professionals, where 97 percent of high school graduates move on to higher education. For the 2014 school year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Weston High School as the best in Fairfield County, third in the state of Connecticut and 182nd in the nation.
She was named Superintendent of the Year for 2016 by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.
“This is the most important thing that any Board of Education does — selecting a superintendent ...,” Gordon said. “We did a lot of outreach within the community to learn about the qualities the community seeks in its next superintendent … It’s been a long process and we think we’ve found the right person to lead the school district.”