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City School Board aims to select new superintendent by late August

The Charlottesville School Board could select a superintendent by the start of the coming school year, according to a timeline outlined Friday.

Previously, the board had said it hoped to hire a superintendent by Sept. 23. The planned timeline now has the board announcing a pick before Aug. 25, the first day of school.

Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins’ last day is May 31, and then Jim Henderson will take over as acting superintendent.

The board met with Brad Draeger and Ann Monday, two representatives of Illinois-based search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, to plan out the search process. Board members gathered in person on the stage at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center, and the meeting was streamed online.

The interviews and names of applicants, including the finalists, will be kept secret, though board members decided Friday to hold a series of confidential community interviews for select individuals to provide feedback on the finalists.

Some board members were concerned about the speed of the proposed timeline, given that the board historically likes to have several discussions before making a decision.

Draeger cautioned the timeline is just a plan, and that board members can always go back to the pool of candidates if they don’t find someone they like.

“Don’t ever rush to the wrong candidate,” he said. “Don’t just make a choice because we have it on the calendar.”

The first step in the process is a series of focus groups, set for June 9 and 10, with various school and community groups. Draeger and Monday said those focus groups will help them get to know the community and create a leadership profile, which will be presented to the board at a public meeting in late June.

“Quite frankly, I doubt you will be surprised," Monday said of the profile. "You know this community. We’re going to tell you what you know. … It’s a bit of needs assessment. It’s done publicly and involves the community.”

Board member Leah Puryear and others asked the consultants about the plan to ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are included in those focus groups.

“Your firm conducted this search 15 years ago,” Puryear said. “The community has not changed at all. There are things within the country that have changed, that have impacted this community, and I think that those things have got to be in the forefront of your mind, and I need to know how that is going to be addressed.”

They said they want to talk to everybody and anybody who is interested and that they are planning a variety of town halls and meetings over the course of two days next month. Additionally, the HYA team will rely on the division’s methods to reach historically underrepresented families and groups.

“Our goal is to be as accessible as possible,” Monday said. “You are the key people in inviting people to come.”

An anonymous online survey will be released next week as another way for people to weigh in on the strengths and issues in the division, as well as the leadership characteristics they want to see in a new superintendent.

The superintendent job already has been posted, and Draeger said applications have started to roll in. He expects 30 to 40 people to apply as part of the national search. The board has said the baseline salary would be $170,000 to $175,000.

Draeger said a completely closed search process would yield the best applicants. However, board members said some form of community input is essential.

Monday said the board knows the community and the expectations for the search.

“… If this person is performing well in six to nine months after he or she is announced, nobody remembers the process,” she said. “If they’re not performing well, everybody remembers the process.”

Puryear said she is concerned about confidentiality.

“We have extremely duplicitous people in this community that are going to spend a lot of time investigating not only your firm, but anyone that may apply for the position of the Charlottesville city school superintendent,” she said.

Community members who participate in an interview will be handpicked by the board and have to agree not to disclose the names of the finalists.

“This community is well aware and understands about confidentiality in interviews,” board member Jennifer McKeever said. “Historically, we know what to do.”

Board members consulted their personal calendars and worked around vacation plans to outline the key steps in the search, such as closed meetings to discuss candidates and interviews. By early August, the board expects to narrow the applicant pool to about six candidates and then conduct interviews before settling on at least three finalists.

Internal candidates will go through the same screening process. McKeever told the consultants they could expect at least three internal applicants.


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