Board of Ed chair worries Shelton budget battles could negatively impact supt. search

Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden is concerned the Shelton school district’s annual budget issues could impact the ability to find the best qualified new superintendent.

“It could be difficult to attract people who are going to be interested in coming to a district where there’s likely to be an unusual challenge at budget time,” Holden said on Thursday, the day after School Supt. Freeman Burr unexpectedly announced he would step down.

Burr, in making his announcement, cited the district’s annual budget battles with the city as the main reason he would resign on Dec. 31 of this year.

“Given the wealth of this town … the budget process should not be this difficult,” Burr said.

'Somewhat limited' pool

Holden said he believes there now are nine school districts in Connecticut searching for a new superintendent, including Shelton, with a limited pool of possible candidates.

“Essentially the number of people qualified to be a superintendent, with the correct credentials, is somewhat limited,” he said.

That creates a competitive hiring environment, and Holden said communities where municipal officials are considered to be more supportive financially of school systems therefore have an advantage.

“There are other districts where the education budget is less contentious,” he said.

Low per pupil spending

Another potential negative is that Shelton’s per pupil education spending is in the lowest 10% of school districts in Connecticut, according to Holden. Student achievement results, however, are competitive with most comparable suburbs.

A positive in recruiting a new superintendent is that Shelton has a “strong” administrative staff and many “talented” teachers, according to Holden.

Holden said the Shelton Board of Education will be looking for a new superintendent with the correct vision and a strong financial background.

The Shelton superintendent oversees a system with an annual budget of about $68 million and about 650 employees, serving approximately 5,000 students.