Behind the superintendent search: the screening process

On Jan. 29, the School Board announced they were in negotiates with Omar Easy for the superintendent position. Easy's experience comes from working many educating and administrative roles. “[Easy] was very thoughtful, articulate, and he was inspiring. He asked very good questions and hard questions in a way that wasn’t threatening to anybody.” School Committee member Jeanne Downs said. “It was clear that he had a really good background in school budgeting and school programs being innovative. It was clear he had the leadership skills we were looking for.”

Credit: Courtesy of Jeanne Downs

On Jan. 29, the School Board announced they were in negotiates with Omar Easy for the superintendent position. Easy’s experience comes from working many educating and administrative roles. “[Easy] was very thoughtful, articulate, and he was inspiring. He asked very good questions and hard questions in a way that wasn’t threatening to anybody.” School Committee member Jeanne Downs said. “It was clear that he had a really good background in school budgeting and school programs being innovative. It was clear he had the leadership skills we were looking for.”

The Wayland School Committee chose candidate Omar Easy to take over the role of superintendent starting in the 2021-2022 school year on Jan. 29. The superintendent search began after current superintendent Arthur Unobskey’s announcement in May 2020 that he would be leaving Wayland. Since then, the process has included multiple steps, beginning with the use of a private company.

“[The School Committee] contracted with a search firm who helped to post the position, go and search for people they want to reach out to [and] encourage people to apply,” Assistant Superintendent Parry Graham said.

After the initial recruitment of candidates, a screening committee worked to narrow down the large pool of applicants. The group of teachers, administrators, parents and community members read through resumes, picked people to be interviewed and sent candidate finalists to the School Committee.

“We wanted to get a really broad group of people [on the screening committee] because it’s the superintendent who’s responsible for working with lots and lots of people,” Graham said.

The members of the first round had qualities the School Committee hoped the finalists would have.

“[We were looking for] someone who was a really good communicator [and] somebody who had experience executing plans, so what does our 5-year plan look like, [and] what does our 10-year plan look like,” WHS language department head Nicole Haghdoust said. “Another one was the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

After the initial screening process, the committee chose three finalists: Omar Easy, Jennifer Parsons and Arcelius Brickhouse. Then, the School Committee took over and performed many rounds of interviews, town hall forums and meetings to discover different school populations. A small number of site visits also occurred, but less than most years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“[The finalists] were going through first a screening committee, then the School Committee, then parents and educators and students,” Haghdoust said. “It’s really a [townwide] kind of process, and then the School Committee takes in the input from all of those different constituents, then makes a decision.”

In the search, School Committee member Jeanne Downs emphasized the idea of looking for a leader who was strong in diversity, equity, communication and inclusion.

“[Easy] was very thoughtful [and] articulate, and he was inspiring,” Downs said. “He asked very good questions and hard questions in a way that wasn’t threatening to anybody. It was clear that he had a really good background in school budgeting and school programs being innovative. It was clear he had the leadership skills we were looking for.”

The main difference of finding a new superintendent between previous years and this year was that almost everything was on Zoom. The only in-person part of the process was the tours of the schools.

“I actually think Zoom, while it was hard because you weren’t in person, gave more people [the chance] to participate because they could just log on,” Downs said.

The School Committee wanted a candidate that would help improve the WPS system and understand the pressure that students are under. They believed that Easy encompassed all those qualities.

“[Easy] is clearly someone who is really smart,” Graham said. “He’s really accomplished. He’s someone who’s a really hard worker. I got to meet him and he has really good interpersonal skills.”

Throughout the entire process, the overarching goal of the many committees involved was to find a candidate that would fit in Wayland’s climate.

“I think all of the three candidates that we put forward were quality candidates,” Haghdoust said. “The biggest piece for me [was] that [I could] see this person leading me, could see this person giving me creative ideas, pushing me to think about my teaching and could think about this [person] doing what’s best for the students of Wayland. Those were the things that were going through my head.”