2017-06-21 / Front Page

School board enlists help in search for new superintendent

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board’s search for a new superintendent is currently underway. The school board approved contracting with the West Virginia School Board Association for services related to the search to not exceed $3,000. Their action came at a June 12 work session with West Virginia School Board Association Executive Director Howard O’Cull about search resources and considerations.

School board president David Ambrose said that O’Cull will help with the search process including the recruitment of applicants, posting and advertising the position in different locales, designing the final contract, candidate questions and helping the board refine what they’re looking for in a candidate.

Superintendent David Banks submitted his resignation at the June 6 school board meeting to accept a position with Berkeley County Schools as Assistant Superintendent in charge of special education. The effective date of his resignation is still undetermined. Banks will stay on to help with the transition.

All school board members were present at the work session, with board vice-president Aaron Close and member

Pete Gordon attending by phone. Superintendent Banks and new Human Resources/Maintenance Director Jamie Harris were also at the meeting.

The process

O’Cull said that state code doesn’t say what procedures school boards have to follow for a superintendent search. The process is up to the individual board and could take different formats-simple or elaborate. Some boards may have someone from their central office that they want to appoint. Others may choose to appoint an interim superintendent while they conduct the search.

According to O’Cull, the general search process begins with an announcement of the pending vacancy, development of a customized notice of position vacancy, advertising of the position in newspapers, posting of the application, school board screening of applications, citizen involvement considerations, structured interviews of finalists, selection of finalists, post-interviews, announcing the superintendent-elect and finalizing the contract.

O’Cull said the state School Board Association had moved to a narrative question format for the superintendent application, which gives applicants the chance to express themselves and puts everyone on the same page. The format has been very well-received.

Criteria survey

O’Cull recommended that each board member take a survey that he provided to help them focus on the qualifications and qualities that they wanted in a superintendent. Considerations included education, training and professional experience, leadership/ management skills, budget, finance, top priorities for board, staff and community relations and top areas of expertise.

O’Cull suggested that the position be advertised for three weeks in local, regional and metropolitan newspapers in Charleston and Pittsburgh. It would be advertised on the West Virginia School Board Association, Morgan County Schools and the state Department of Education websites. All county superintendents would also receive notice of the vacancy. The board’s biggest expense would be newspaper advertisements, which are expensive for Sunday editions, he noted.

O’Cull described different scenarios, procedures and resources that had been used in various counties that had sought new superintendents and answered questions from board members and Banks regarding the process.

O’Cull said that many boards had a meeting where they allowed members of the public to speak about the qualifications and qualities they wanted in a superintendent candidate. Local board members are pursuing community input in their search.

Public input sought

The Morgan County School Board is asking for public comments at their Wednesday, July 5 meeting about the qualities and qualifications that community members would like to see in a new superintendent.

Ambrose said they are also accepting written comments at the board office, by mail and by e-mail. Mail or take written comments to the Morgan County Board of Education, 247 Harrison Avenue, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 or e-mail them to executive secretary Betsy Buser at bbuser@k12.wv.us by Wednesday, July 5.

Options

O’Cull said one option was that the board could appoint an interim superintendent and begin a fuller search for a new superintendent on January 1 with more flexibility.

Banks thought that he could stay on until mid-August when school begins in Berkeley County.

O’Cull said that could give the board time to advertise, get community input on the superintendent search, adequately screen applicants and hire someone by August 1 with Banks having a little time to work with the new superintendent before leaving for his new post.

Ambrose expressed concerns about what would happen if Banks’ new employer decided he needed him sooner. He said his personal preference was having a superintendent in place with a contract in short order and not an interim superintendent. However, it was hard to foresee whether they’ll acquire a good pool of candidates and if the board might have to advertise the position a second time.

Ambrose hoped that the board could have a new superintendent selected between July 6 and July 10. Banks’ superintendent contract for this year technically ends on June 30.

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