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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Schenectady schools seek community input on qualities desired in future superintendent


SCHENECTADY — The Board of Education for the Schenectady City School District is actively seeking the community’s opinion on the qualities they desire in their forthcoming superintendent.

This week, the school board initiated an online survey with a single, crucial question.

“What should be the primary focus of the new superintendent as they take charge of the district and during their initial 100 days as the head of Schenectady schools?”

The survey, accessible on the district’s website until Feb. 11, is part of the board’s ongoing deliberation on how to replace Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., who recently announced his resignation after accepting a position to lead Yonkers Public Schools.

Soler, who started his tenure in the Electric City in July 2021, is set to take the helm of the Westchester County school district on May 1.

The Board of Education’s strategy for finding Soler’s successor remains uncertain, although some members have expressed a preference for a swift internal promotion to maintain the district’s current trajectory. A nationwide search is also a possibility.

Since Soler’s resignation announcement, several potential replacements have been suggested, including Carlos Cotto, the district’s current assistant superintendent for innovation, equity, and engagement.

Cotto, who joined the district in 2021 from the Rochester City School District, has played a significant role in expanding the district’s community presence and spearheading several student initiatives, such as the My Brother’s Keeper program.

On Wednesday, Cotto expressed interest in the superintendent position but emphasized his respect for the board’s selection process.

“I am indeed interested in leading the district, but I am committed to respecting the process established by the board,” he stated.

Another potential candidate is Joseph DiCaprio, the district’s assistant superintendent for planning, accountability, and district initiatives.

DiCaprio, a Schenectady High School alumnus, began his educational career as a first-grade teacher at Pleasant Valley Elementary and has spent most of his career at the city school district, steadily climbing the ranks.

Before his current role, DiCaprio served as the district’s director of elementary schools. He was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Soler’s unexpected resignation is the latest in a series of leadership changes the district has undergone since March 2020, when former Superintendent Laurence Spring departed. The district appointed Aaron Bochniak as interim leader following Spring’s exit. Bochniak left the position in April 2021 for a role with Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES.

Soler’s tenure also marked a significant period of transformation for the district, which introduced a new grading policy in October and launched a new community schools initiative that established new pathway programs for students and transformed school buildings into neighborhood hubs.

Last spring, district taxpayers overwhelmingly approved a $300 million capital project.

The survey results are anticipated to be released next month.

At the board’s most recent meeting, school board President Bernice Rivera expressed a preference for an internal search process to find a new superintendent, but acknowledged that all options are still being considered.

City Councilman Damonni Farley, a community outreach specialist with the district and a Schenectady High School alumnus, expressed his desire for an internal hire on Wednesday.

“Our succession plan should prioritize promoting from within our current leadership to elevate someone who has been actively involved in the work on the ground,” he stated.

The school board indicates on its website that it aims to identify and start interviewing superintendent candidates by February. However, Rivera previously noted that this timeline may be adjusted, with the ultimate goal of having a new leader in place before Soler’s departure.

“The Board of Education will decide on the next steps after gathering public input,” the board states on its website. “The Board of Education will provide an update to the school community at the February 28 work session. If any special meetings are scheduled before this, an announcement will be made.”

The Board of Education’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 7.

Juniper Li
Juniper Li
Juniper Li, with her roots in documentary filmmaking, brings a unique narrative style to local news reporting. A graduate of NYU’s Journalism program, Ava has a keen eye for stories that capture the essence of community life. Her reporting often highlights local achievements and challenges, drawing on her experience in visual storytelling.
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  1. They should prioritize experience and proven leadership skills. A strong superintendent will be crucial for the success of Schenectady schools and the community as a whole.


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