WOODBRIDGE - Dan Hatch's resignation as interim principal at Amity Senior High was not a big surprise to some. He was one of two finalists for the principal's position, vacated by Dr. Arnold Frank a year ago. But the board decided to reopen the search, leaving him in limbo, retained but not chosen. With the Amity position uncertain, and a firm offer as Stratford's high school principal before him, Hatch's move seems logical.

Last fall, the Amity BOE asked for volunteers to form two screening committees, one of teachers and staff and another of board members, administrators from all three campuses, and PTO/PTA representatives from the three towns. Charged with presenting the board with "several candidates," each committee sifted through applications, performed interviews and forwarded their four best choices to the superintendent. Of these, Dr. Rolfe Wenner recommended Hatch and an administrator in the West Haven system to the board.

The Board was deadlocked. Member Steve Ledewitz, who also served on one of the search committees explained,

"We saw different strengths in each of the candidates." They chose to start the search again, to find one person with everything-academic savvy, disciplinary and leadership qualities; but agreed to keep the two finalists in the running. Long experience as a principal was also desired.

Lauri Bruce, of the AJHS (Bethany) PTO, was among the committee members puzzled by the BOE's indecision, and disappointed by Hatch's departure.

"We were told they wanted someone they could all get excited about," especially for the salary offered. But it's widely know that the demand for school administrators is up and the supply down. Some taxpayers consider a principal's salary high, but in the current market "Amity's pay is not all that competitive," as Wenner told an advisory group of parents last spring.

The two search committees collapsed into one and have worked through another pile of applications. There are new entries since last time, and at least one resume has come in since it became known that there was no longer an internal candidate. The next round of interviews with the board has started. Wenner hopes to fill the position by July 1, and Ledewitz feels confident that a choice will be made by the next BOE meeting.

Does the BOE expect Amity's reputation to draw the best of the best? Another search committee member (name withheld) said, "No, I truly believe the Board is trying to do the best thing for this district." No one can know at this point if they took an unnecessary risk and lost their best choice, or if they did right to search again. Only humans are available to do the board's job, and the pay [zero] is not exactly competitive.