Plan calls for current board to hire superintendent

Apr. 14, 2014 @ 06:16 PM

Durham Public Schools could name a new superintendent in June under an aggressive timeline recently adopted by the school board.
The board and its consultant, Ray & Associates, hammered out a timeline last week that places the job of hiring the new superintendent in the hands of the current board.
There had been some debate over whether the job should go to the board that’s currently seated or the one elected May 6. That election could produce as many as three new board members.
School board chairwoman Heidi Carter said Ray & Associates advised the board to approve a more aggressive timeline that would ensure a new superintendent is in place by August.
“If we want to have someone in place by the start of the school year, we need to make the selection [no later than June] so they can begin in August,” Carter said.
She said if the board made the decision later in the year, it is unlikely that a superintendent candidate would leave his or her current school district in midyear to take the Durham job.   
Carter said all candidates for school board will be invited to be part of one of nearly two dozen focus groups being asked to help develop a superintendent profile that Ray & Associates will use in the recruitment of potential superintendents.
“We will set them aside as an individual stake-holder group in developing the superintendent profile,” Carter said.
But several school board candidates said this week that there is no need to rush the process.
Jimmy Doster, a candidate in the District 2 race, said the board is taking about the same length of time to hire a superintendent as it took to hire the search firm.
“It looks like we’re rushing the process,” Doster said, noting that the application period ends May 15. “What’s the rush?”
Doster also said the new board should be charged with hiring the next superintendent.
Lisa Gordon Stella, a candidate in the District 3 race, also said the new board should select the new superintendent.
Gordon Stella said the board is essentially the superintendent’s boss, and the people applying for the post should know for whom they’ll be working before submitting their applications. 
She said board dynamics could change greatly if three new members are elected next month.
“Candidates might not apply because they won’t know who their boss will be,” Gordon Stella said.
Meanwhile, Matt Sears, also a District 3 candidate, said he is comfortable with the timeline if it will attract the best candidates.
“I want our board and our community to ensure that we are setting the hiring pace that matches our needs rather than the search firm insisting on timelines, even if they are based on deep experience,” Sears said. “I'm confident the board is considering this sentiment.”
DeWarren Langley, a District 2 candidate, said that as long as the school board is on the path to hire a quality candidate whose skills match the needs of Durham Public Schools, the process should more forward.
Langley said the board should also be sure that it engages a wide cross-section of the community during the search process.
“We always get a better outcome when we have more diversity in the process,” Langley said.  
The ad for the superintendent’s post began appearing this week on the websites of such publications as Education Week.
The ad notes that Durham “seeks and individual with visionary leadership and strong administrative skills to lead a district of 33,086 students.”
According to the ad, the job will pay “in the range of $225,000” and the “final salary for the successful candidate will be negotiated and determined based upon proven experience, qualification and Board criteria.”
Carter said Ray & Associates initially recommended setting the salary at $267,000, which led to a spirited debate among board members.