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School Board Outlines Plans and Dates for Superintendent Search

A new superintendent would be selected by Jan. 24, 2013, under the proposed plan.

Rochester Community Schools Board Vice-President Beth Talbert reported Monday night on behalf of the committee, made up of Talbert, Lisa Nowak and Pat Piskulich, in charge of the search for a new superintendent. Talbert laid out changes in the search process and introduced a schedule for finding a new leader for the district.

The schedule and criteria will be voted on at the next board meeting on Oct. 22. Community feedback on the search criteria will also be welcome at that meeting.

The planned schedule

The schedule, which originally had selected candidates being taken to the board on Dec. 5, has been moved back according to Talbert because pushing for a December decision date would "muddy the waters and move us quicker than we want to. We want to take our time and do this right."

However, Talbert expressed that too long of a search might limit people from applying since that information is public knowledge in Michigan. 

The ad for the position has already been placed and applications are being received.

The revised schedule, which was described as a planning document and not binding, is as follows:

  • Dec. 12 - School Exec Connect to present applications with their recommendations. The board will choose a slate of candidates at this closed meeting.
  • Dec. 17 - Up to six semi-finalists to be selected. This will be an open meeting. *This is changed from an earlier posting that stated it was a closed meeting.
  • Jan. 9 and 10 - Semi-finalists will be interviewed in a public format. "At this point candidates moving forward would come spend more time in our district," Talbert said.
  • Jan. 22 and 23 - Finalists, most likely two, will be interviewed in a public format.
  • Jan. 24 - The new superintendent will be announced in a special board meeting.

Changes in the search process

In addition to working on the timeline, Talbert and the committee reviewed the previous hiring process.

"There are a number of things we would look to do differently this time," Talbert said. She then outlined six key changes to the search process. 

  1. Site visits: Tentatively scheduled for the week of Jan. 14, board members will visit finalists in their current districts.
  2. One-day wait: The new schedule includes built-in time for the board to process feedback from the community before making the final hiring decision. Previously the selection took place immediately after the last candidate interview.
  3. Increase reference checks: The number of references checked will more than double. Each board member will do two reference checks from the candidate's list for a total of 14, plus, as in previous searches, do off-the-list checks too. 
  4. Community meet-and-greet: Talbert said they had a lot of feedback from the community letting the board know they missed a more informal opportunity to know the candidates in the last search. A meet-and-greet reception will be held during this search. 
  5. Writing sample: The writing sample submitted by candidates will be changing.
  6. Student involvement: The board is trying to find ways to incorporate more student involvement in the process.

The new superintendent will replace Fred Clarke, who resigned after 14 months on the job. School Exec Connect, which helped find Clarke in 2011, agreed to help board members with a new search free of charge. The district will be responsible for expense and advertising costs but the search firm will not charge its normal $19,500 base fee.

Dave Peterson from School Exec Connect attended Monday's meeting to answer any questions for the board; he was not called upon.

Next steps

The next action steps outlined by Talbert are to approve the schedule and criteria at the board's Oct. 22 meeting.

Jeremy Nielson October 10, 2012 at 01:14 PM
There are some good changes to the process here, but I didn't hear why the board thought these would improve the search process. Perhaps these reasons were discussed in the Committee Meeting that was closed to the public. I'm not sure why we're relying on people submitting applications over a six week period for the highest position in our district. Why wouldn't we go out and try to recruit the best talent money can buy? We're a top school district in Michigan. It's time we recruited leadership appropriate for where we are - and where we want to go.
Laura Cassar October 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM
This story has had two changes since its original posting. The December 17 meeting is open, not closed as originally written. Also, to clarify, the search process has always included off-the-list reference checks. The total number of reference checked will more than double with the new procedure of each board member checking two references.
Joshua Raymond October 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Laura, I presume that the December 17 meeting will be an announcement of candidates, not a discussion and selection of candidates as that would reveal the names of candidates not chosen for the semifinalists.
Jeremy Nielson October 10, 2012 at 03:45 PM
There's no reason the December 12th meeting should be a closed meeting, where the board discusses the applications and chooses "semifinalists". As Ms. Talbert said, once an individual applies for the position it becomes public knowledge.
Joshua Raymond October 10, 2012 at 03:56 PM
If so, is there a list of the candidates who applied last time? I don't remember it being an open meeting with discussion for the previous search.
Jeremy Nielson October 10, 2012 at 04:06 PM
They weren't published (much public information isn't published), but you can FOIA the applications. The district might not have the applications for the last batch of applicants from 20 months ago. You're right, though, that last time the initial meeting to determine "semifinalists" was also a closed meeting. As I stated, there's no reason it should be closed.
Joshua Raymond October 10, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Reviewing the video from Monday's meeting, the six or possibly more semifinalists will be selected in the closed meeting on December 12 and discussed and formally approved in the open Board of Education meeting on December 17. The Board of Education will not be soliciting new or revised criteria for selection of the superintendent candidates as the previous search was so recent. However, I believe this would be a good opportunity for community members to voice what criteria should be different to ensure a good match. I hope the BOE will reconsider this. It was not specified whether the semifinalist interviews will be in the day or evening. With only two dates listed for semifinalist interviews and the 1 1/2 hour slots allocated last time, this would make for 4 1/2 hours of interviews per night, followed by a decision on the finalist candidates on the second night. Hopefully the interviews will not be held during the day as community participation will be smaller then. I wonder why the BOE has chosen to do two nights instead of three.

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