School board meets with KSBA on superintendent search

Published 7:10 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Tim Eaton of the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) discussed the process and timeline for the superintendent search with board members during a special-called meeting Thursday.

“…That’s what I came for, to answer your questions, along with go over the process, and then we’re going to develop an advertisement tonight that will go out on the KSBA portal for the number of days that you want it to go out – at least 15, probably not more than 30,” Eaton said.

Eaton said once the board has developed the advertisement, KSBA will begin recruiting on the KSBA portal.

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“It’s a very popular portal. We get applications from all over the United States at times and we’ll recruit and advertise for you,” he said. “No applications come to this district. Your personnel folks don’t have to deal with any of that, it all comes to KSBA.”

Eaton will be working with Board Secretary Colleen Benson to establish a screening committee.

“I will come and meet with the screening committee the number of times we need to meet to do the leg work for the board,” he said. “The screening committee will do the leg work for the board. We will be looking at all applications. We’ll be doing some vetting and we’ll be bringing you some of the top candidates. However, you hire the superintendent and you will be responsible for that duty.”

Chairman Etta Meek asked Eaton to go over the duties of the screening committee.

Eaton said the committee and board will first hold a joint meeting.

“The first night we’ll have that joint meeting. You guys will be here for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I’ll start working with them and what we do is we start with the paper screening,” he said. “In other words, we read all of the applications. I give them about two weeks or so. They read all of the applications…”

The applications include a cover letter, resume, a link to the application that has criminal background questions and eight open-ended questions, along with work history.

Applicants are required to have three reference letters.

“Then we’ll be doing some reference checks as they narrow the field down,” he said.

Eaton said this makes his 50th superintendent search.

“In the end, you will have privy to all of the applications,” he said.

Board member Gloria Sneed asked how many times Eaton has seen a board choose someone other than who the screening committee recommended.

“Out of 50 times, probably three,” he said.

Eaton asked board members how long they want the application window to remain open.

“I have in my notes here from the training that the other guy said, posting 15 days gives a bad impression that we’ve already got our mind made up,” Sneed said. “Do you agree?”

“Not necessarily,” Eaton said. “But it certainly implies that at times. Don was not wrong to tell you that in the training.”

Eaton said if they don’t receive a lot of applicants in the chosen time frame, it can be extended.

Christine Killen will serve as the board member representative on the screening committee.

Eaton and the board finalized a timeline for the superintendent search, which will include the following dates:

• March 27: advertisement and application period beings and screening committee is organized

• April 21: application window closes

• April 27: joint meeting of board and screening committee

• May 9: second screening committee meeting; applicants chosen for background and reference checks; background and reference checks begin

• May 16: third screening committee meeting; recommendations finalized for the board

• May 23: joint meeting between the board and screening committee to receive recommendations

• TBD: board interviews candidates

• TBD: New superintendent named

All meetings will be held at the Student Support Center.

Sneed said she’s been asked if there is going to be a community forum.

“Do you all do that or would that be us?” she said.

“That is up to the board,” Eaton said. “…that’s your all’s decision. It’s an option.”

Board member Marvin Wilson asked how many community forums Eaton has held.

Eaton said he’s only participated in one but they are done in other areas.

“You don’t have to decide that tonight. That can be something you let me know and I’ll do anything I need to do to help you with that,” he said.

Following the discussion with Eaton, board members discussed the Chief Academic Officer position. Chairman Etta Meek read aloud the rationale for the agenda item.

“Vacant key staff positions should be left to the new superintendent for hiring, who may choose to reorganize the structure of the Central Office,” Meek said. “Due to the decrease in enrollment over the last two years, possible budget cuts may be necessary.”

Meek said the board needs to be prepared for budget cuts.

Killen said she agrees and thinks it’s important for the new superintendent to pick the people for his or her team.

“I don’t agree with it,” Sneed said. “I have several things with a line on them, you know, the recommended motion is to abolish the position of Chief Academic Officer, and where is the attachment that tells me what that job is and what they do?”

“Well they have a long process of what they do but I did not think that was important because this, the new superintendent may choose, will choose probably, with the board’s approval, to create a new position,” Meek said. “We’ll have to have an academic person in some way. So, this is just because our posting date is up on Monday. This is just so the new superintendent will get to pick whom he or she will work with.”

Sneed asked why the item was on a special-called meeting agenda.

“Why is this on a special-called meeting with 24 hours, 27 hours notice, and not on a working meeting agenda where we can talk about this?” Sneed asked.

Meek said because the posting ends Monday, March 27.

“We wanted to do this before someone was hired before the new superintendent comes in,” she said.

Sneed said she expects the new superintendent will want to reorganize but she did not think it would be immediate.

“But I really felt that would be next year, after they got in the position and got their feet on the ground and got their feet wet with an understanding of what the needs of our students are,” Sneed said.

“It could be,” Meek said.

“If we as a board start reorganizing the structure before we get a new superintendent I feel like we say we already know who it is and what they want us to do,” Sneed said. “I don’t know who is going to be the superintendent and I don’t know what they want restructured.”

“None of us know that,” Meek said. “But the board creates and abolishes positions and if someone is put in now they will be there for a year and the new superintendent might like to pick their own person.”

Sneed said the board has repeatedly been told the decrease in enrollment is a national trend because of COVID-19.

“So what if the kids, you know, the ones that matter the most, what if they come back to school and we ain’t got enough people and we’re not organized and we ain’t fixed right?” Sneed said. “…this position takes care of what, a couple million dollars, and if we don’t have somebody in here trained and ready to meet the guidelines, we might lose $2 million.”

Meek said the Superintendent’s annual attendance report (SARS) will not come out until the end of the year and that’s what will determine spending for the next few years.

Sneed said she would have felt better about the discussion if the topic had been presented by someone in the central office with knowledge of the position, during a working meeting and with the supporting attachments on the agenda item.

“It seems to me like this is saying to the public, who already doesn’t trust us, who already thinks we’ve got somebody picked out, that we’re dabbling in personnel without dabbling in personnel…” Sneed said.

“We’re not dabbling in personnel, we’re looking at positions, Gloria,” Meek said.

Meek invited a motion to abolish the position of Chief Academic Officer, effective July 1.

Marvin Wilson made the motion. Killen seconded the motion.

The board voted 3 to 1 to pass the motion.