School board to interview 6 semifinalists for superintendent

May. 28, 2014 @ 09:08 PM

The Durham Public Schools board might be closer to selecting a new superintendent than previously thought.

The board has narrowed the pool of potential candidates to six semi-finalists, according to member Fredrick Davis.

Davis made the revelation in a letter to The Herald-Sun in which he responded to a recent editorial critical of his decision to not to participate in the superintendent search if newly elected members not yet sworn in were allowed to participate in a non-voting advisory role.

 “That would have been good when we met with the $35,000 Search Firm that selected for us six Candidates, from 314 interested individuals who are to be considered some time in the near future,” Davis said of the decision to allow the three new board members to participate in the search process.

The board is scheduled to begin interviewing the six semi-finalists for the superintendent’s job today and will conclude the interviews Friday afternoon.

In an interview Wednesday, School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter acknowledged that the board narrowed the field to six semi-finalists during a closed-door meeting last week.

“I think that’s a good number,” Carter said. “I was thinking it would be six to eight [semi-finalists].”

Carter said the board would likely select three or four finalists to interview next week. The board has set a goal to have the new superintendent named by the end of June.

The board has agreed to keep the identity of the finalists secret.

The search firm, Iowa-based Ray & Associates, had advised the board to not reveal the number of semi-finalists selected from a pool of 11 candidates the firm brought forward.

Those 11 more closely matched the superintendent profile established after the firm conducted interviews with school board members, DPS staff and community members, including candidates for school board in the May 6 election.

Carter said Wednesday she had left Davis a voice message in an attempt to convince him to change his mind about not participating in the search process.

“I told him I wanted him to know that it’s important to me that he participates,” Carter said.

She said Davis has certain skills that would be useful as the board works to identify the best candidate.

The decision to allow participation by the three newly elected members – Mike Lee, Matt Sears and Sendolo Diaminah – was made on a contentious 4-3 vote during last week’s school board meeting.

Carter and board members Nancy Cox, Leigh Bordley and Natalie Beyer voted to include the new members, who won’t take office until July.

School board Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown and members Davis and Omega Curtis Parker voted against including them.

Those in favor said allowing board-members-elect to participate is one way to build a bridge between new members and old members and to receive additional input on an important decision.

Those who voted against argued that the job of hiring a superintendent is solely that of the current board. They said it would set a bad precedent to allow anyone other than current members have such an intimate role in the process.

The search for a new superintendent drew interest from 314 people from 48 states, including 98 from 28 states who were interested enough in the job to complete the application package.

The person selected will replace Eric Becoats, who resigned in December amid criticism of his management of the district.

Hugh Osteen, deputy superintendent of operations, has been acting superintendent since December.