Fayette school board sets time line for superintendent search

The Fayette County Board of Education could be ready to interview superintendent finalists the week of June 6 under a schedule outlined Thursday night by the board and its newly hired search firm.

The schedule includes time for several other steps before board members would vote on a superintendent to succeed Stu Silberman. Members hope to select someone by July 1.

Thursday night's meeting was the first between the school board and representatives of Omaha-based McPherson & Jacobson LLC, the search company board members chose Saturday. The firm was hired for $27,500 plus expenses.

Company CEO Tom Jacobson told board members that McPherson will start advertising the Fayette County post nationally this month.

Public focus groups would meet the week of April 18 to gather input on criteria for the new superintendent. The school board would get results May 9.

May 16 would be the deadline for applications. A superintendent screening committee would review the applicants and give the board a list of top contenders by May 31.

The board then would select finalists for interviews starting June 6. Opportunities would be provided for teachers and school district representatives to meet the finalists, and a public forum would allow residents to meet and question the contenders before the board's final vote.

"The idea is that no one in the community can come to you and say they didn't have an opportunity to be part of the process," Jacobson told board members.

He also said that if board members aren't happy with the applicants, they should reject them and conduct another search, even if that means naming an interim superintendent.

"We don't want you to panic and make a bad choice," Jacobson said. "We want you to find the right person who is going to come here and stay."

McPherson & Jacobson says it has conducted "hundreds of local and national searches" since its founding in 1991.

The company also is handling the Jefferson County schools' superintendent search and is running searches in 10 other states, plus the District of Columbia, the company Web site says.

McPherson had one rough spot last year while directing a search that led the Monroe, La., school district to hire Kathleen Harris, a former assistant superintendent in Missouri. Soon after Harris took over, officials learned she was just short of the classroom teaching time necessary to meet Louisiana requirements.

The Monroe school board president publicly complained that McPherson should have spotted the problem while screening applicants. But Jacobson replied that a normal search would not have detected the glitch.

Harris appealed to the Louisiana Teachers Certification Council, which granted her out-of-state certification. She is on the job as superintendent in Monroe.

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