Editorials

Open search process, solid choice

One of three finalists for the Fayette County Public Schools superintendent job is Daviess County School Superintendent Tom Shelton, who was mentored by outgoing Fayette Superintendent Stu Silberman when he headed the Daviess school system. Photo Provided
One of three finalists for the Fayette County Public Schools superintendent job is Daviess County School Superintendent Tom Shelton, who was mentored by outgoing Fayette Superintendent Stu Silberman when he headed the Daviess school system. Photo Provided

A lot has changed in the Fayette County Public Schools in the eight years since the school board smuggled in a candidate for superintendent under an umbrella to hide his identity from the public.

The search that just culminated with the hiring of Tom Shelton was as commendable for its openness as that earlier search was memorable for its silliness — and its unfortunate outcome: the winner resigned after just eight months.

Process does matter. It matters a lot when selecting the leader of a public institution. So, before moving on to the next chapter, the board deserves a shout out for the way this search was managed.

Not only did the board make each of the three finalists available to the public, it actively enlisted a cross section of Lexington — from bankers and home builders to members of the arts and faith communities — to meet with and evaluate each of the three candidates. And then took their impressions seriously.

Fayette PTA officials, as well as school district employees, got to participate in the vetting. And the public submitted more than 300 questions or comments.

The board also studied student outcomes and teacher morale in each of the finalists' districts.

Despite the board's diligence, there is bound to be some disappointment. The runners-up — Elaine Farris, Clark County superintendent, and Lu Young, Jessamine County superintendent — were strong candidates and have lots of friends and supporters in Lexington.

Shelton, superintendent in Daviess County, was a protege of outgoing superintendent Stu Silberman, which will raise some eyebrows. Shelton, who began his career in business as an accountant before earning a doctorate in education, has an admittedly different personality and leadership style than Silberman and has established himself as a successful superintendent.

While we've seen no indication that the process was slanted in his or any other candidate's favor, Shelton has to earn the trust and respect of Lexington's educators, students, parents, taxpayers and the board that unanimously hired him.

Having been chosen through an open process in which stakeholders had the chance to participate gives him a leg up on gaining that trust and respect. We wish him well.

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