Board begins search process

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Superintendent search screening committee to be formed

By Stephen Lega

For the second time since 2009, Marion County Public Schools are searching for a superintendent.

On Feb. 8, the Marion County Board of Education agreed to hire Mike Oder of the Kentucky School Boards Association as a consultant during the process. According to the contract, the KSBA will receive $8,500 for its assistance with the search process.

In response to a question from school board member Ed Hacker, Oder explained the benefit of hiring KSBA.

"We're your professional organization. We'll be working with you from the time the superintendent is hired and beyond," Oder said. "We're with you through thick and thin all the time."

Oder also worked with the board in 2009, when the board hired Donald Smith. Smith resigned as the superintendent Jan. 25. On Jan. 29, the board hired Steve Burkich to serve as the interim superintendent until a full-time superintendent is appointed. Burkich is retired and a former Boyle County superintendent.

Oder met with the school board again on Feb. 10, when he reviewed the hiring process with them. He also stressed that his role is to help guide the school board and the screening committee through the process.

"My job is not to choose your next superintendent," Oder said, adding, "My job is to help the screening committee get down to the best candidates that have applied for the position."

The superintendent vacancy was posted on the Kentucky Department of Education website Feb. 11. The full advertisement is still being drafted.

Hiring process

It will likely be months before Marion County is ready to hire a new superintendent.

The superintendent hiring process involves five steps, according to materials provided by KSBA to the school board.

The first step is developing a search plan. This involves creating an advertisement announcing the vacancy and describing the qualities the board would like in its next superintendent. The board will also create a brochure to provide to potential applicants about the district and the community, and the screening committee will be formed. The screening committee must include two teachers in the district, one school board member, one principal, one parent and one classified employee.

Teachers will vote for the two teachers. The board member is appointed by the board chairman. The principal is elected by the district principals. Parents will elect the parent representative, and the classified employees will elect their representative.

Because at least 8 percent of the district population is a minority, the screening committee must include a minority member. If no minority member is elected by any of the groups represented on the screening committee, then a minority representative will be elected by parents in the district.

Individuals interested in serving on the screening committee may nominate themselves, Oder said.

The screening committee will receive instructions from the school board about what qualities they are looking for in a superintendent and how many candidates they would like the screening committee to recommend. The board is not required to interview or hire any of the individuals recommended by the screening committee, however.

"You are not bound by their recommendations," Oder told the school board. "You're only asked to consider the recommendations. You can interview and hire anyone you please."

When the screening committee is in place, it will have a joint meeting with the school board to discuss its role in the process.

The second step is advertisement and recruitment. After the ad is created, the KSBA will post the advertisement, which must be posted for at least 30 days. Oder said he can also contact any individuals who the school board may want to apply. He explained that an individual invited to apply directly by a board member may mistakenly believe he or she has an inside track on the position.

The third step is the screening committee work. After the applications are received, the screening committee will go through them based on the criteria recommended by the school board. Oder stressed the importance of confidentiality during this part of the process.

The interview stage is the fourth step. After the committee makes its recommendations to the school board, the board will decide who it will interview. Again, this does not necessarily have to include any or all of the individuals recommended by the screening committee.

Upon completion of the interview process, the school board can offer the position to a candidate.

Residency requirement

During the Feb. 10 meeting, board member Ed Hacker asked if the advertisement should mention that the board requires the superintendent to establish a residence in Marion County.

Oder said that's not something the board can advertise.

"It's interesting," Oder said. "You can't even ask that in an interview, but you can put it in the contract."

Board member Bernard Miles said it has been asked before and answered by applicants.

Oder did explain how he has handled it with other boards. He said he can call a candidate on behalf of the school board and ask if that candidate would be willing to sign a contract with a residency clause.

"If they say no ... the board eliminates them," Oder said.

School board member DeLane Pinkston asked if they could mention that it is in the board's policies.

Oder said he would have to ask the KSBA attorneys.

"It seems like you would have to tell somebody that it was board policy," Pinkston said.

Public input

The school board knows it has the final decision, but it does want public input as well.

"I'd like to see our community to be buying into this whole process," board member Mike Cecil said.

Cecil said the local media may be able to provide opportunities for public comments, possibly through a survey.

Oder replied that while the board is advertising for the position, it could also host community forums where members of the public could address the board.

"You are trying to look for information from the community to help you make your decision," Oder said.

He added that the community forums could also help the screening committee members when they are evaluating the applicants for the position.

"The candidate criteria will be given to the screening committee at the first meeting and say, 'Here's what you are looking for,'" Oder said.

Cecil said he wondered if many people would show up for a forum. He asked if the board could publish a survey that people could send in anonymously.

Oder said however the board chooses to seek input, they are likely to get it.

"If somebody has an ax to grind, you better believe they are going to show up or they are going to send their information," he said.

People who want to have input will do so, according to Oder, although he said in most cases, most people don't want to get involved.

"The bottom line is you are still soliciting input from your constituents," he said.

Tentative Superintendent Search schedule

The Marion County Board of Education met Feb. 10 with Mike Oder, a consultant with the Kentucky School Boards Association, to discuss the hiring process for the district's next superintendent. Here is the tentative schedule that came out of that meeting. All dates are subject to change.

Feb. 18 - Advertising begins and the screening committee is organized.

April 12 - Applications closed.

April 14 - Joint meeting of the school board and the screening committee. The school board will give its instructions to the screening committee along with the applications.

April 19 - Screening committee meets to decide applicants to be chosen for background and reference checks.

April 26 - Screening committee meets to decide on its recommendations to the school board. Applications are returned to the school board.

April 28 - Joint meeting of the screening committee and the school board. The school board will begin planning following the joint session.

May - School board interviews candidates.

May 20 - New superintendent named.