School Board Takes First Steps in Superintendent Search
500 signatures are presented to District 109 members concerned about the hiring process; search firm lays out practice
Those hoping for an era of peace and tranquility in the Deerfield school system are going to have to hold on for a little while.
That’s because the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 School Board received petitions with approximately 500 signatures expressing a lack of confidence in their ability to hire a new superintendent.
At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting of the Board, Mara Meyer spoke on behalf of a five person committee concerned about hiring decisions of the board in the past. Meyer would love to have confidence with the board. “But because of past practices we don’t,” she said.
She then handed over the petitions and promised more signatures would be forthcoming.
Meyer, an occasional Patch commenter and her colleagues would like to see the decision of a new superintendent pushed back until after the April 2013 election of the next school board.
But Board President Ellen London said the process will continue. “This is our job,” she said at the conclusion of the three hour meeting. “We’ve been elected to do this job and this is one of the most important things a school board does and we are going to do it.”
As for the selection of the new superintendent, she added, “Ultimately it is a Board decision.”
This is the latest turn of events as contentious negotiations for a new teacher’s contract brought out divisions in the 109 community. That contract was eventually agreed to and went into place this year and will run through the 2014-15 school year.
Regardless of the petitions, the Board is starting the process of replacing Dr. Renee Goier, the superintendent of the last eight years who is scheduled to retire at the end of June.
Consultants Outline Plan
The Board received initial input from the education search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the Rosemont based organization that will receive approximately $19,000 to start the process of finding Goier’s replacement.
Hank Gmitro, the firm’s president, talked at length about the options the board can pursue in selecting a new superintendent.
As part of the initial stages of the process, next month representatives of the search firm will talk with community leaders and at the same put together an online survey that will be available in late September over a three week period about what the traits should be for the next superintendent, according to the community.
That information will then go back to the Board and the interviewing process will start in October going through various stages all leading up to a selection being announced at the Jan. 14 Board meeting.
Among the questions facing the Board is how available will the first group of candidates be to the public.
There Are Some Benefits to a “Quiet” Search
While getting as much community involvement is a goal most people have in mind it can be a double edged sword as some candidates may want to apply quietly.
“The more public a process becomes the less likely it becomes that an experienced superintendent would put themselves in that position,” Gmitro said.
But Sari Montgomery, a member of the 109 Caucus countered, “I understand the risks you take when subjecting candidates to that, but given what has gone on in this community, especially in the past year, it is crucial for the ultimately successful candidate that the community has faith in the decision you make.”
London emphasized how the process of finding the new candidate is still being worked out and there will be further discussions on its implementations.
Gmitro noted at some point staff, Board members, parents, community leaders and other elected officials will all play a role in the process and even students will be able to participate in the online survey.
“We don’t generally see large numbers of students participating but some districts like to offer then the opportunity,” Gmitro said.
Once the candidate pool is winnowed down and, should the board decides that none of the candidates are the right fit, the search would start all over again. “Our commitment to the district is we are here until we find the right person,” Gmitro said.
London is optimistic that community can work together to find a new leader for the school system, but is also realistic.
“I hope we can put behind this past year and not even wait for a new superintendent,” London said. “Most of the issues that have come up in the past year have been examined and dealt with and we have a collective bargaining agreement and the teachers are hard at work. I would hope this doesn’t carry forward to a new superintendent but if it does, I can’t control that.”