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More time sought to pick Boston superintendent

New proposal for Boston would put superintendent in place by July 2015

Interim School Superintendent John McDonough has said he is willing to stay on until a replacement is found.

WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF

Interim School Superintendent John McDonough has said he is willing to stay on until a replacement is found.

A Boston panel charged with finding a new school superintendent voted Monday night to extend the search into the next school year amid growing concern that the process is moving too quickly.

All 10 search committee members present at the meeting supported the recommendation, which was made by the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. Two members did not attend.

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“I don’t see any downside in extending it,” said Robert Gallery, the committee’s cochairman.

Under the proposed new timeline, the search would be extended with the goal of having the School Committee and Mayor Martin J. Walsh select a new superintendent next winter. The chosen candidate would then start no later than July 1, 2015.

The search committee hopes the additional time will lead to a more robust pool of candidates and allow Interim Superintendent John McDonough to push ahead with some ongoing initiatives, such as overhauling vocational education and boosting the diversity of the teaching force.

The decision came just three days before the search committee was set to begin reviewing applications. The committee had been expected to name at least three finalists by next month , and the prevailing candidate ideally would have started by September.

But a number of education advocates and parents of schoolchildren have been raising questions about the rapid pace of the search, which began in earnest in February, and whether it could hinder Boston’s ability to attract the best candidates for the job. They have pushed for delaying the search for up to a year, arguing that McDonough is doing a good job in the interim, making the timing on the appointment less urgent.

McDonough has said he is willing to stay longer, if necessary, until a permanent replacement is found for Carol R. Johnson, who retired last summer. He has said he is not interested in the job permanently.

Even though the firm recommended the delay, Bill Attea, a founding partner of the firm, told the committee they could have put forward a slate of candidates Thursday that would have pleased them.

But he added, “we also feel some good candidates turned us down because of the timing.”

By Monday, 26 candidates had applied for the job, although the firm only considered 20 to be qualified. Twenty-two candidates were men, and only five were known to be candidates of color.

Michael O’Neill, a search committee member and chairman of the School Committee, said he would like a more diverse pool of candidates.

“This allows more time to increase efforts for recruitment,” he said.

Attea also said that 15 candidates were current superintendents, five were deputy or associate superintendents, one was a principal, and five came from foundations or other organizations. Applicants hailed from 14 states.

He also said 10 more candidates could end up applying.

“We would rather get the search done, but we heard repeatedly to slow down,” Attea said, referring to comments from the public at meetings.

Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, who also is on the search committee, said he doubted having McDonough stay another year would enable him to complete the overhaul of vocational education and increase teacher diversity, noting those initiatives will take years to roll out and achieve results.

And he expressed concerns about racism in the new teacher evaluation system. “These are issues that are getting worse in some cases,” he said.

The search committee is scheduled to present its decision to the School Committee Wednesday night.

O’Neill said he did not think the decision required a School Committee vote because they considered the timeline flexible in case it did not get the pool of candidates it desired.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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