Fayette school board could hire superintendent next month

The Fayette County Board of Education could select a new school superintendent before mid-June, according to a tentative schedule worked out Monday afternoon.

The board has said it wants to have a new superintendent in place by July 1 to succeed Stu Silberman, who announced in February that he is stepping down after leading Lexington schools for seven years.

Board members met for more than two hours Monday with representatives of the search firm, McPherson & Jacobson LLC, to discuss plans for the final phase of the search. Jacobson officials also gave members a summary of comments received during public forums and from stakeholder groups late last month on the qualities the new superintendent should have.

Among other things, people said the next superintendent should be visible and involved in the community, must be an excellent communicator willing to listen to all points of view, be an advocate for children and a "courageous leader" able to "make tough decisions and stick with them."

Participants also said the schools' new leader should be aware of such issues as overcrowding, equity among schools, closing diversity and achievement gaps, addressing under-performing schools, and snow days.

Tom Jacobson, CEO of McPherson & Jacobson, said concerns about the days schools are closed for snow "came through loud and clear" from the forums. He also noted that almost 300 people filed online comments about the superintendent search, "which tells us that there is high interest" in the selection process.

Under plans outlined Monday, the final phase of that process will kick in after Monday, the deadline for superintendent candidates to submit applications.

McPherson & Jacobson will deliver applications to the district central office May 19. The district's six-member screening committee will review the applications, then select top candidates May 25 in consultation with representatives from McPherson & Jacobson.

The names of recommended candidates would go to the school board for discussion May 31. While board members are not required to follow the screening committee's recommendations, it is expected they would select three to possibly five finalists in executive session at that meeting. The names would be made public.

Board members plan to bring the finalists to Lexington for interviews with board members and for forums with key groups and members of the general public June 6 to 10. The interview schedule would depend on how many finalists the board selects.

The school board tentatively plans to meet the day after the last interview — or about June 11. Barring a need to gather additional information or have more discussion, the board could select Lexington's new superintendent at that meeting.

"This will be the most public input, and the most public process, that the Fayette County Public Schools has ever used in selecting a new superintendent," district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. "If you look at the number of forums that were conducted, the online survey and follow-up meetings with stakeholder groups, these have never been in place in the past."

Tom Jacobson said his company has been getting inquiries for the superintendent job from across the country.

"Things are going really well," he said. "We are talking with sitting superintendents, encouraging them to take a look and apply. We're having people from other states as well as Kentucky talking to us about the position.

"I don't know where the final applicants will come from, but I think they'll be from a number of states."

Jacobson did not give details on how many may have applied. But, he said, the company studied its past searches three years ago and found that 75 percent of applications arrived during the last two days.

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