Student group wants input in Shelton superintendent selection

SHELTON — A Shelton High School student activist group is lobbying for a spot on the district’s superintendent search committee.

SHS Students Fight for Change, which established a petition and organized a protest against the promotion of former SHS Principal Beth Smith to interim superintendent, recently sent a letter to Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish asking to be part of the hiring process.

“We believe student involvement in this process is vital to ensuring that whoever is ultimately chosen by the district will be well accepted by the SHS student body, and by the Shelton community as a whole,” said SHS senior Matt McGee, one of the founding members of the group.

“Specifically, we ask that the search committee set up to vet candidates for the role of superintendent include at least one student from our group,” added McGee in the letter to Yolish.

The group has suggested freshman Mary Pavilouk, sophomore Marissa Berg and juniors Florian Hurlbert and Jules Cayer as potential selections for any search committee to be established.

“Our group members are involved in civic life here in Shelton,” said McGee, “and they have been following this situation closely since February. We believe our members can bring the most informed student view to the table.”

Smith was named interim school superintendent after the unexpected departure of Chris Clouet at the end of February. Yolish said Smith’s contract runs through the end of December.

Yolish responded to McGee’s letter, saying that the Board of Education will take the group’s request into consideration when the initial vetting process begins. McGee has since posted both his letter and Yolish’s response on his Facebook page.

“Presently we have several items to address with the pandemic upon us, but you can be assured that the superintendent search will be a top priority and a transparent format,” Yolish said in her response.

Yolish added that the entire Board of Education will have input into the search procedures and protocols.

“I respect Matt’s efforts to keep the public informed, however, if I received a response from someone I’d only feel that I would ask if the response is for publication out of respect and courtesy,” said Yolish.

“One other thought is that I’m rather surprised that these students are not interested in having input with regard to the interim Shelton High principal position as well,” said Yolish. “It is their school after all, and I would hope that they would be equally interested and engaged in that interview process, too. I feel very strongly that all positions of high importance should definitely have community and student input and involvement.”

Kathy Riddle was named interim high school principal before the school year.

McGee said most municipalities have a non-voting student representative on its Board of Education, since students are on the receiving end of any board decision.

“Not only should we have one in Shelton, but we also need to make sure that a student rep is on the committee that vets our next superintendent, as it will be crucial that our next superintendent maintains a good and productive relationship with our student body,” said McGee. “Students don’t want to be protesting BOE decisions or feeling like their voices aren’t being heard. We care about our education and our district just as much as anybody else, and yet most of us can’t vote.”