Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Search is On

School board members agreed Tuesday on a fast-paced superintendent search process aimed at having a finalist approved on Feb. 19.

The district hired Peter Carter as interim superintendent in June after former Schools Superintendent Paula Howard abruptly quit. Carter agreed to serve until the end of the 2007-08 school year. But the district must now seek a new permanent superintendent.

Marvin Edwards, a senior associate at Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Glenview, Il. led the board through steps that begin with agreeing on a desired leadership profile. That profile will be the basis of the search. The firm will present the board with five finalists from the pool of applicants and then the board will choose three semi-finalists before selecting the new superintendent. Edwards and Board President Pat Barksdale both stressed the importance of confidentiality throughout the last stages of the process.

Edwards and the board agreed on a calendar that started at once with slotting board members into one-hour sessions on October 11 and 12. Over the next few days, various groups will be invited to fill the nine other slots to take part in developing the leadership profile. There will also be a community forum at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 at Plainfield High School for public input.

The firm will take all the comments and develop the profile within a couple of weeks. It will report back to the board at a meeting 7 p.m. on Oct. 29. It was not decided whether the meeting will be open or closed.

The search will take six to eight weeks, after which the firm will yield five candidates. On Jan. 8, 2008, the board will have a 5:30 p.m. seminar on interviewing and will learn who the five candidates are.

Edwards said the interviews should take place within the following week.

“This is where the sacrifice comes,” he said.

Board members will have to commit to interviewing the five candidates over two days, to yield three semi-finalists. The board agreed to meet three candidates on Jan. 16, each for an hour and 15 minutes, and two more on Jan. 17. Edwards said he will facilitate the board’s process of selecting three semi-finalists after the interviews that night.

Each of the three will have a full evening with the board, possibly with dinner, on Jan. 23, 24 and 25 in a closely guarded process to ensure confidentiality. After the last interview, Edwards will again facilitate a board session on the final selection.

Barksdale questioned the timetable in light of possible inclement weather, but Edwards said, “We do this every winter and we just do it.”

Edwards said the interviews should be close together in order to keep the impressions of finalists fresh in the board members’ minds.

The process includes a site visit to the finalist’s home district, something that might be complicated by changing rules for out-of-state travel from Abbott districts. Barksdale asked Interim School Board Secretary/Business Administrator Michael Donow to look into the issue.

The firm will do a reference check on the finalist, but the district will have to do a criminal history check.

Whoever emerges as the new superintendent will find a long to-do list in terms of improving student performance and other functions. A state Department of Education monitoring team reviewed five performance areas in early 2007 and came up with a report that found the district lacking in four out of the five.

The board promised public notice through all means, including the district web site, print media and blogs to get the word out about the search process so that the community can take part.

--Bernice Paglia


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