Opinion: Resident weighs in on Hopewell Valley Regional School District superintendent search


It was my pleasure to attend the Board of Education meeting on May 17 and present the school district EcoWarriors with their award certificates.

At the meeting, I learned that a survey seeking superintendent search input was sent to people in-district and to nursery schools. Media outlets Hopewell Valley News and MercerMe reported the survey on the day it closed.

Since I missed the window, I reached out to a search committee member who recommended that I offer public comment rather than discussing privately. Since I am unavailable to attend next Monday’s meeting, I am publicly commenting now.

President Deborah Linthorst said, “Over the course of the next few weeks, we will determine our needs with regards to consultants and interims.” Since no one on the Board of Education has firsthand experience with interims in our district, I will offer mine.

An interim may have been appropriate when the previous board brought one in 13 or 14 years ago. Their superintendent was not renewed so there was no pressing need to
transition a successor. Further, there were no internal candidates under serious consideration.

Therefore, an interim was brought in as a placeholder while the board engaged in an extended search. The interim was very highly paid and made few decisions believing, rightly so, that the next superintendent should chart a new course for the district. Finally, any institutional knowledge that the interim may have gleaned, went out the door with him when he left.

I can say unequivocally that this Board of Ed is in a far different situation than the one that
hired Dr. Thomas Smith. Dr. Smith and I started at the same time and I was honored to sign both of his renewals with our district. He will leave the district in a better position then he inherited, and it would behoove the board and the community if he could offer a successor the benefit of his experience.

Further, there is an internal candidate that is a well-respected, contender. While the board can most certainly still engage in further due diligence, it may make sense to
name Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece, as an acting superintendent to ensure there is means to provide legacy information and a succession plan to a capable individual who can learn from our respected superintendent while there is reasonable overlap time.

Waiting until “over the course of the next few weeks” delays action until dangerously close to the end of the school year, and may squander an opportunity for useful knowledge transfer.

Lisa Wolff
Hopewell Township