Despite the , the Board of Education approved the hiring of Dr. Winnie Hamilton during a special session Tuesday night.
In 8-0-1 vote — with President Dr. Polly Rauh abstaining her vote — the Board approved a resolution that would permit Dr. Hamilton to serve as superintendent for three years starting on July 1, 2012 "contingent upon satisfactory negotiation of a contract."
"I've always tried to base decisions on what's best for the students," Dr. Hamilton, , said following the Board's approval. "So I humbly accept this new opportunity and I promise that the children will always remain first in my heart and that I will always listen."
Hamilton has been with Stamford Public Schools since 1971, beginning her career as a physical education teacher and by 1988 began transitioning into leadership roles as an assistant principal at Rippowam Cluster High School and assistant principal — and later principal — at . She served as deputy superintendent until
Before the Board could vote on hiring Dr. Hamilton, however, they had to tackle another resolution backed by members including Dr. Rauh and Gary Klein, head of the personnel search committee.
Earlier in the session, board member Geoff Alswager expressed his concern over the Board not allowing other candidates to vie for the position when that was the original plan. "Transparency is saying what you do and doing what you say and that’s my issue tonight," he said. "That’s it in a nutshell."
Board member John Leydon, Jr., also approved of the resolution. "We've supported the search in the past and I'd like to see the search continued so that we can make sure that we've thoroughly reviewed those that applied for the job," he said.
Dr. Rauh compared skipping the search to punting in the game of football. "We the board have the prime responsibility of selecting a superintendent," she said. "We gave you our commitment and our promise to do a full search to get the best person we could and now we are denying that step in the process."
Board member Lorraine Olsen, on the other hand, pointed out that the consultants hired to assist with the search told the Board that they wouldn't have any suitable candidates until 2013. "In a district with 15,000 students and 2,000 employees, we can't have an interim superintendent for two years," she said.
Board Vice President Jerry Pia said the process was "flawed from day one" and that it was in everyone's best interest to allow Dr. Hamilton to serve as superintendent. "We have to build a [central] staff...and nobody wants to be hired in their job by someone who's temporary."
After the resolution to resume the search failed with a 4-5 vote and the Board approved an amendment to the resolution that name Dr. Hamilton as superintendent, Olsen expressed to attendees that the decision to hire Dr. Hamilton wasn't taken lightly.
"The public needs to know that she wasn't chosen because she's homegrown," she said. "...Winnie submitted her application just like any other applicant... we're not just taking her at face value. When 28 focus groups were asked what they were looking for in a superintendent, they were looking for the qualities that Winnie possesses... Just like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' said, 'Why look any further than your own backyard when you have what you want right here?'"
Dr. Hamilton's approval by the board was met by rigorous applause and a standing ovation.
"I think the process [the Board went through] made perfect sense and I feel that we have the best candidate," NAACP Stamford Chapter President Jack Bryant told Patch. "I'm glad it's over. We look forward to watching her work to get Stamford off of the list of the 30 lowest-performing school districts in Connecticut."