Next Orange schools superintendent needs experience in redistricting, equity work

The next superintendent of the Orange County Schools should have experience in redistricting and working to achieve equitable outcomes for all students, the school board says.

The new hire will replace Todd Wirt, who is stepping down with no immediate plans at the end of June after heading the district for four years. Wirt’s current salary is $169,877, and his contract was scheduled to run through June 2022, a district spokesman has said.

The school board last week agreed to pay the N.C. School Boards Association $19,500 plus out-of-pocket expenses to help find a new leader.

NCSBA legal counsel Allison Schafer said a search typically takes four to six months, giving Oct. 23 as a target start date for a new superintendent. The deadline for applications would be July 7.

“That’s a good amount of time to get the word out,” Schafer said, “to get people to research the district and to get people interested and filling out an application.”

Schafer recommended the board interview seven to 10 candidates and select three to four finalists for extensive background checks.

The association provided a draft job description, which the board then modified. The job description says someone with a doctorate is preferred and that candidates should have experience in both a school and a school system’s central office.

Board member Will Atherton, who was elected new chairman at last week’s meeting, noted that the district expects to go through a major redistricting soon, but the draft job description said nothing about experience with redistricting.

“I think it’s fine to [add] experience in school redistricting,” Schafer said.

Board member Sarah Smylie said the job description should note the district’s recent passage of an equity policy and decision to create a chief equity officer and should include that the district is looking for someone who can achieve equitable outcomes for students.

“The thing that I would focus on is equity work,” Smylie said.

The board agreed to add that, too.

The board also agreed to post a community and staff questionnaire online to get feedback and hold forums before the end of June. Schafer recommended the board wait to fill out its profile for a candidate until after public and employee input has been gathered, even though the job will already be advertised.

“Public input is very important,” Schafer said. “Staff input is very important.”

She recommended advertising the position in one paid place only, the American Association of School Administrators, for 60 days. She recommended it go out for free on the National School Board Association website and the NCSBA website.

The board decided also to advertise for 60 days on two other paid sites: the National Alliance of Black School Educators and the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

The NCSBA will do an internet search of every candidate.

“That takes time, but we have found that that is important information for you to have as you consider applications,” Schafer said. “If someone’s been named superintendent of the year, or of if someone’s ... contract has been bought out, whatever those kinds of things, it’s important for you to know about that as you consider applications.”

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