Nashua’s superintendent finalists make pitch to public

NASHUA – Nashua’s two finalists for superintendent of schools, Connie Brown and Jahmal Mosley, each made their case Thursday evening for the position.

Both candidates, in an event hosted by the Board of Education, participated in separate question-and-answer sessions using written questions from the public and board members.

Mosley, who is currently assistant superintendent for curriculum and administration at Sharon Public Schools in Massachusetts, stressed the importance of studying data to develop a thorough understanding of student performance. One way to do that, he said, is to take advantage of i-Ready, a K-12 adaptive diagnostic for reading and mathematics, though he also advocated for "triangulating" data from different sources to get a more well-rounded picture.
"When you’re really able to delve into the data and look at students deficiencies, we can then go back and look at curriculum and see how we can adjust it to meet the needs of students who are struggling," Mosley said.

One of the questions he was asked was why the amount of special education students in the district has increased over the last 10 years.

He said the reason is likely complicated, but is in part due to public schools’ ability to detect more deficiencies. Early detection, he said, is important because it can decrease the amount of students with special needs later in life.
When asked what he thinks the district should look at in the big picture, he advocated for strategic planning – looking at two or three actions that it can focus on and do well.

"Not 10 to 15 that are all over the place," he said.
Mosley expressed excitement about the opportunity to work for a diverse school district.

"Our schools are a reflection of who we are," he said. "I embrace the challenges of working in a school district that reflects the microcosm of what America’s all about."

If hired, he said he would relocate to Nashua and start a life here.

"I’m not looking for a job, I’m looking for a community to grow in," he said.

Brown, who has served as interim superintendent since last August, was previously executive director of the Maine School Management Association in Augusta.
She came into the district at a time when the superintendent and both assistant superintendents had resigned around the same time, leading Brown to say she has been able to bring stability to the district.

As Superintendent, Brown said she would work to use of i-Ready to its full potential. She said she has begun working on a pilot program that would use it to target the needs of students in first and second grade – a crucial time for developing reading and math skills.

"We’d be strategic, almost surgical in identifying those needs," she said.

Brown said, as superintendent, she would address why the school district has students performing at a variety of levels.

"Some students excel, but we also have students who are in the 25th percentile, and that’s unacceptable to me," she said. "There needs to be a very close look at why those students aren’t being successful."

Like Mosley, Brown said the Nashua School District needs to develop a long-term plan. She said the district sometimes takes a "buy it and figure out how to use it approach" when it comes to technology and advocated for greater planning when making those decisions.

The main reason, she said, she decided to apply for the position is the teachers, staff and parents in the district. She also said she has been impressed with the innovation in the classrooms and teachers’ ability to think critically and understand the needs of their students.

Before the question-and-answer session, the board hosted a public meet-and-greet with both candidates.

Members of the audience were able to submit anonymous comments into a box after each candidate’s question-and-answer session. The board of education’s Ad Hoc Superintendent Search Committee will review those comments and make a final decision.

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, dedry@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Derek.