School board to discuss superintendent’s search

Jan. 12, 2014 @ 05:52 PM

Should the current school board hire the next superintendent to lead Durham Public Schools? Or should that job be left for the new board elected in May?
Those are among the questions the school board is expected to tackle Tuesday when it meets at 1 p.m. to begin discussions about the process to replace former Superintendent Eric Becoats who resigned under a cloud of controversy last month.
Those board members reached last week declined to state a preference for which board they think should hire the new superintendent, opting instead to wait until Tuesday to share their thoughts.
“I want to go into the meeting with an open mind,” said school board member Omega Curtis Parker. “I don’t have any preconceived notions about what we should do.”
School board member Natalie Beyer said Tuesday’s meeting is probably the best time for board members to share thoughts about the process.
“I’m looking forward to a healthy discussion on Tuesday,” Beyer said.
School board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said allowing the current school board or the new board to hire the new superintendent each has its “pluses and minuses.”
“We’ll just have to weigh one against the other,” Carter said. “We’ll all know more after the meeting.”
The board’s agenda doesn’t include time for public comment during the meeting, portions of which will be conducted behind closed doors.
Beyer said she would have preferred the agenda to include time to give citizens a chance to comment on the search process.
“I would encourage people to come to the meeting and also contact us ahead of it with ideas and thoughts,” Beyer said.
Four of the school board’s seven seats are up for grabs in the May 6 election.
The election will deliver at least two new board members because Nancy Cox and Fredrick Davis are not seeking re-election.
Beyer and Curtis Parker both have said they plan to run again.
If the last superintendent’s search is any indication, the school board might find it difficult to name a superintendent before new board members take office, most likely in July.
The last search that produced Becoats took about nine months from initial search discussions until Becoats was on the job.
In early November 2009, the board began discussions about a superintendent’s search to replace Carl Harris after he announced he was leaving to take a position with the U.S. Department of Education.
A month later, the board chose the N.C. School Board Association to handle the school district’s search, and the board hired Becoats at the end of April 2010.
He began two months later July 1.
Becoats announced his plans to resign Dec. 19 after a series of high-profile missteps, including misstating the amount of money the district had in its unassigned fund balance by more than $15 million.
The decision to resign came just weeks after the board unanimously voted to not extend Becoats’ contract or to give him a pay increase.
Becoats received a $298,072 severance payment.
Hugh Osteen, the deputy superintendent of operations, has been appointed interim superintendent while the board conducts its search for a permanent leader.