School board members began discussing next steps for a superintendent search last week as Ann Bradshaw’s June 2018 departure looms.

Community members, teachers and students lent their input at the board’s Wednesday, Jan. 10 meeting. One thread rung true among all comments: the desire for an open process.

“We have the school board elections coming up, we have a superintendent search, so right here is our chance to really do this right for the [students] in Milton,” 12-year teacher Joe Smith said.

Smith said honesty, setting positive examples for students and collecting input from residents throughout town are all important factors to consider in the search.

Milton Education and Support Association recommended the board hire a consultant for the search and start the process promptly. District data assessment coordinator Tammy Boone agreed on both accounts.

Trustees thanked Bradshaw for giving advanced notice of her resignation, but Boone reiterated the hiring window is tight.

Trustee Cathy Vadnais suggested the district advertise the soon-to-be vacant position on SchoolSpring, an education-based hiring site.

“The sooner we get that info out there, the better,” trustee Greg Burbo concurred.

Chairwoman Lori Donna said the topic warrants further discussion. She’s also reaching out to the board’s attorney for advisement.

A future meeting will focus solely on determining the board’s search process, Donna said. She and member Mike Joseph are spearheading the hunt.

Boone, who’s experienced superintendent searches before, said a consultant would take some of the work off trustees’ plates and help mold a job description specific to the Milton post. In that case, she said waiting to advertise would be wise.

With or without a consultant, MESA, Smith, Boone and Milton Inclusion and Diversity Initiative founder Katrina Battle said community input is key. Battle recommended the board mimic the town’s equitable and open police chief recruitment.

That process included a seven-member committee comprised of community members, a municipal staff group and a question-and-answer session with the final candidate.

The “harsh reality,” Vadnais said, is the board has the final say and not everyone can be part of the process.

But harboring a collaborative process is the goal, Donna said, asking the board’s two student representatives to create a list of the top 10 aspects the student population wants to see in Bradshaw’s successor.

In an interview with the Independent, Bradshaw said it would be presumptuous to share what skills her successor should embody specific to the Milton position.

“I would just say that the superintendent job is challenging but rewarding, and that’s all,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw’s hiring received criticism of its own in March 2016 when the board promoted her from an interim position without opening the application pool to other candidates.

Simultaneously, Bradshaw was being sued for mishandling a rape investigation in her former district. The case was settled in October 2016, but the board has not said if it was aware of the allegations at the time.

It was also found that John Barone, Bradshaw’s predecessor, derived his credentials from a diploma mill.

The board also endured pushback from residents this summer when employing a new athletic director. Residents deemed the process non-transparent, and trustees later apologized, saying their recruitment policy needed updating.

The hiring procedure also needs to be determined for the AD position, which physical education teacher Trevor Wagar holds in the interim, Vadnais noted. The district is currently funding a mentorship between Wagar and Essex AD Jeff Goodrich.

With plenty of hiring decisions ahead, the board vowed to seek community input this go-around.

Trustees and Smith thanked Bradshaw and Vadnais for their service. While Smith said he and Bradshaw have had their disagreements, he appreciated her listening to his perspective.

“We need to make sure that we get someone that meets all the needs,” Smith continued. “Milton is a dynamic community, has a lot of strengths [and] areas where we can improve, and I know we can do it — but we really gotta get everyone working together.”

Bradshaw, who is moving back to Massachusetts to be closer to her 15-month-old granddaughter, said she has no plans to re-enter the job market until after her son’s September wedding.

She said she’s contemplated her decision to move over the past year. Her initial three-month position in Milton transformed into a three-year stint.

She says she’ll miss her fellow colleagues and the beauty of Vermont.

The work she’s enjoyed most, she said, is developing the district’s core vision and values statement and focus on professional development. She helped implement professional learning communities for teachers to work collaboratively together and graduate course offerings on trauma informed classrooms and crisis intervention.

Also among her accomplishments are financial services, facilities use and school resource officer agreements with the town and the formation of a district equity committee and equity-based summer reading program.

“I’ve been excited about a lot of the work we’ve done, and we’re by no means finished,” Bradshaw said. “But that’s the nature of education: You’re never done.”