District 833's superintendent search beginsDistrict 833 School Board members are charting the path toward hiring a new superintendent, even while addressing lingering concerns about the non-renewal of Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
District 833 School Board members are charting the path toward hiring a new superintendent, even while addressing lingering concerns about the non-renewal of Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract.
Board members met Saturday with SchoolExecConnect to set a timeline for the schools chief search and hiring process, but they also debated whether to hold a public meeting to answer questions about why Porter’s contract was not renewed in December.
Board member Ron Kath said there are “many emotions” in the district among people who are unhappy with the board’s decision. He asked Ken Dragseth, who is leading the SchoolExecConnect search team, if holding a town meeting to discuss the decision would be appropriate.
Dragseth, who attended the workshop with search consultants Toni Johns and Bob Osland, said his firm was not part of the board’s decision and it “would be ridiculous for us to be involved” in a public meeting about Porter’s contract non-renewal, Dragseth said.
The decision was well-publicized by the media, Kath said.
The Minnesota School Boards Association and the school district’s attorney advised against a meeting, board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd said.
“There are so many outrageous statements out there” and many statements that were reported inaccurately, board member Marsha Adou said. “There were creative answers and solutions that never happened,” she said.
She suggested that Boyd write a question-and-answer piece that could be posted on the district’s website.
It’s up to the board, Dragseth said, but candidates ask about awkward situations. “They understand,” he said.
The board might be limited in what they can say, Osland said.
Any statement that would go on the website would need unanimous board consent, said board member Jim Gelbmann, that wouldn’t have “one person’s spin on it.”
With no further support for holding a town meeting or posting comments on the district’s website, Kath said the board should move forward without doing either.
The board and Dragseth continued to discuss the estimated 10-week hiring process, advertising for the position and deciding a new superintendent’s salary.
The first step will be to set up an information page on the district’s website – sowashco.k12.mn.us – where the community, students and district staff can get information on the search process.
That site includes an open letter from the board explaining the process, along with an online survey, search timeline and other information.
Also, focus group meetings facilitated by SchoolExecConnect will be held with district staff members, the community, school groups, teacher’s union representatives, principals, assistant superintendents, Porter and individual board members.
SchoolExecConnect should be aware that there is a “climate” in the district where people won’t say what they think because they fear it will be used against them, Boyd said.
Osland said facilitators would hear that in interviews and meetings with the results given to board members.
“Even if it’s malicious, we still get the feedback,” Kath said.
Two search ads will be placed in Education Week, a professional education publication, at a cost of $2,800, according to Dragseth. Ads will be on the magazine’s website for a month, he said.
Much of the recruitment will come as a result of “going after people,” he said.
The current superintendent’s total salary package is $165,000 a year, which is probably where it needs to be, according to Dragseth, adding that candidates currently in management positions in larger districts would be recruited.
In 24 searches he has conducted, there were no final selections that didn’t result in a contract, Dragseth said.
The next step, based on the input from focus groups and interviews, will be to develop a “new superintendent profile” and bring five or six candidates to be interviewed by the board May 5. From that group, two or three finalists will be chosen that night. The next round of interviews of the finalists will be May 8-10.
When a finalist is selected, a contract should be in place by the end of May, according to Dragseth.
Here is the search timeline:
Feb. 13, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Community meeting to provide input on characteristics desired in a new superintendent: District Service Center board room, Cottage Grove
Feb. 21, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Community meeting to provide input on characteristics desired in a new superintendent: Woodbury High School group room
Feb. 22-28 – Consultants develop “New Superintendent Profile”
February 28, 6 p.m. – Consultants meet with School Board to share “New Superintendent Profile” and board accepts attributes desired in next superintendent
February – April 27 – Recruitment of candidates
May 1, 6 p.m. – Five to six candidates presented to board
May 5, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – Candidate interviews for the day
May 5, 5:30 p.m. School Board narrows choice to two or three finalists
May 8-10 – Finalist visits to the district with nightly board interviews
May 10 – Board narrows choice to one by end of the last interview session
May 10-23 – Board negotiates contract
May 24 – Board action on superintendent’s contract
July 1 – Superintendent assumes duties