TAMWORTH — Following an aggressive timeline, the SAU 13 Search Committee was scheduled to interview two candidates for the superintendent’s position on Wednesday night.
The committee started its search for a successor to Schools Superintendent Meredith Nadeau on May 14 and set a two-week deadline for applications.
“We’re scheduled to interview two candidates in person tonight,” Jack Waldron, chair of the Freedom and SAU 13 Joint Board, said Wednesday by phone. “This is an opportunity to see are we interested in this person and are they interested in us.”
Waldron said four people applied for the job.
“We still also have feelers out in the interim (superintendent) world,” he said. “The next meeting of the SAU 13 Joint Board (made up of members of the Freedom, Madison and Tamworth school boards) is June 21. The goal is to bring a candidate forward at that meeting if we can.”
Nadeau gave her notice as SAU 13 superintendent May 10 after accepting a similar position at SAU 21, based in Hampton, which is closer to her home in Lee.
The SAU 13 Joint Board accepted Nadeau’s resignation via Zoom at a special meeting on May 11.
Nadeau said a prime reason for working closer to home is that it will allow her to spend more time with her family. “The pandemic, and then the drive through the pandemic when my kids are at home (remote learning most of the past school year) made it tough,” she said.
The commute from Lee to Tamworth is 75 minutes long, while Nadeau’s new commute to Hampton will be about 25 minutes.
Nadeau will be heading up a much larger district. SAU 21 encompasses the preK-8 North Hampton School, which has 360 students; the K-8 Lincoln Ackerman School in Hampton, with 210 students; the K-4 Seabrook Elementary School, grades 5-8 Seabrook Middle School; the K-8 Barnard School in South Hampton; and Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, a 9-12 school with an enrollment of 1,120 students.
SAU 13 has an enrollment of about 675 students.
Waldron said he was “surprised” by the quality of applicants for the SAU 13 position.
“Typically, we would begin our search in December, and, hopefully, do interviews in February and have someone hired in March,” he said. “We’re on a different timeline but we had some good applications come in.”
The search committee, made up of members of each of the Freedom, Madison and Tamworth school boards; the principals of Madison Elementary, K.A. Brett School and a representative from Freedom Elementary; and a representative from the SAU 13 office, met after the May 28 deadline.
“We reviewed all of the applications and decided who we would like to interview,” Waldron said, adding that if a successful candidate is found on Wednesday the committee would then conduct a background check before offering the job.
The position is being advertised at a starting salary of $110,000-$125,000.
According to the state Department of Education for the 2020-21 school year, Nadeau was earning $126,417. The salary for the superintendent in SAU 21 is listed at $155,000.
The job description posted on the SAU 13 website says, in part: “In the process of educating, there must be an expectation of excellence coming from the top down, as well as from the bottom up. Our search for a superintendent focuses on bringing that expectation into our schools. A strong superintendent will benefit the entire community.”
The post lists the strengths of the district as “Small class sizes and small communities; strong digital learning initiative (1:1 access to technology); dedicated staff and administration with a low turnover rate; strong community support and connection; and a safe small-town environment.”
The posting also lists two challenges: “Budgetary constraints resulting from reduction in-state aid and tuition contract for out-of-district middle school and high school students. Enrollment issues resulting from an aging New Hampshire population and fluctuating demographics.”
“Desired areas of expertise” are listed as: educational leadership that emphasizes curriculum, instruction and assessment; politically savvy; ability to understand and relate to small, rural towns and schools; strong communication skills and financial acumen including alternative funding sources, such as grant procurement.
Before Nadeau’s arrival, SAU 13 went with an interim part-time superintendent in Kent Hemingway Jr., a longtime educator, Hemingway deferred his retirement by a year in July 2018 after SAU 13 Superintendent Lou Goscinski.
SAU 13, one of the smallest administrative units in the state, was formed in 1991 after years of discussion among the towns about splitting with Conway and setting up their own administrative offices.