District starts search for new superintendent
The Carbon School Board lost no time after District Superintendent Patsy Bueno's upcoming retirement was announced at the last school board meeting. On Thursday night, they held a special board meeting to start the process of searching for a new school district leader.
The board has requested the help of Utah School Boards Association in making the search. Via telephone, the association's executive director, Richard Stowell, advised the board through their first discussion concerning the move.
"I want to point out a very important matter to you," said Stowell, as the board listened intently. "The decision of hiring a superintendent is the most important decision a board of education makes."
Stowell then asked the board questions about where they are in the process. Barry Deeter, board president, pointed out that, so far, the board has done nothing in relation to searching for a new person, but they had thought about how far-reaching they want the search to go.
"I believe we all agree that we would like to make a search for the new superintendent by searching both inside and outside our organization," said Deeter.
Stowell told the board that the search for a superintendent for a school district is a challenging process.
"Actually, it is tougher to find a person to fill the position now, than it has been in the past," said Stowell. "It seems to be the norm right now that we don't get a lot of candidates for these jobs."
The fact that a number of districts in the state are looking for new superintendents is a factor, too. Known vacancies presently exist in Box Elder, Juab and Garfield school districts. That's not to say that more couldn't pop up in the next few months before the end of the fiscal year.
Stowell said that the highest number of people he has seen apply for a position as a superintendent sought the job during a recent search in the Park City School District, where they had around 20 applications.
"I know I was thrilled that we had that many for that job," he said.
The board mulled over the idea of the search. Based on Stowell's advice, they decided that they would conduct a Western states search, rather than a national search. This decision was reached after Stowell advised them that, generally, Western schools pay superintendents considerably less than Midwest and Eastern schools do, with salaries reaching into the $200,000 a year range. Carbon's present superintendent is receiving a little over $100,000 per year.
The board will work with the USBA to create and assemble brochures that will be sent to appropriate places to advertise the opening. The USBA will also utilize Internet sites to let candidates know about the opening.
After deciding on an internal and Western states search, the board also discussed and planned actions relating to the screening process for candidates. First of all, they learned that there is no set state law regarding how that process is carried out.
"You need to think this through carefully," said Stowell. "The process can be shaped and formed as you like. Many districts like to use a citizen's committee to help in the process, but nothing says you have to do that."
However, the board, as a whole, liked the idea of forming a committee. Stowell suggested that such a committee might be used to read and sort through applications, suggesting a few candidates that may be interviewed. Then they would pass that list on to the board, who would then make the decision on who would be interviewed. All recommendations would be confidential to each of the committee members, with none of them talking to the others about who they selected.
"This confidentiality is important," said Stowell. "A superintendent from another district might apply and will not want his or her candidacy known to his present employer. Of course, once it is down to the interview portion of the process, then it will be obvious who has applied."
The number of people asked to serve on the future committee and methods for their selection then became a large topic of discussion. Because the job will probably not be officially posted until mid-February, and will be followed by a 30-day search, nothing was set in stone as to how exactly to elect committee members, although the final number suggested at the meeting ended up at around 20 individuals. The board decided to allow district employees to have two members on the committee, one representing the teachers and the other the classified employees.
While aspects of the decision were not yet totally defined, the board determined the way the committee will operate. The committee will meet once as a group, to receive initial instructions regarding the tasks they are to complete. Then a time period will be set aside, so that committee members can come to the district office, review the applications, and make their individual recommendations at that time. Those recommendations will be compiled by some district staff members and presented to the board.
"I do have one problem with this process," said Deeter. "I am concerned that there might be a strong candidate who will somehow get missed in this procedure. What if that happens?"
Stowell suggested that the board could reserve the right to interview anyone who applies, regardless of what the committee recommends, and the members agreed with this stipulation. They also made the decision to interview all in-house candidates who apply for the position. He also suggested that the board interview all inside candidates, and the members agreed that should happen.
The board also made the decision, before creating the advertisement for the position, to send out a letter/email to all district employees to ask them what they would like to see in the way of qualifications for a new superintendent. Employees will have about a week to respond to that request.
A start date for a new superintendent has not totally been established, although board members agreed that they would like it to happen as soon as possible. Bueno is leaving the district June 1, and they would like to have someone on board before that date.