Board must put focus on finding right person

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 8, 2012 

One of the most important things a school board does is hire a superintendent.

It's critical that the people who will serve on Beaufort County's next school board be fully involved in that decision.

Part of the process is determining what kind of superintendent you are seeking and determining who among the candidates fits your bill. The board's membership will be set with the Nov. 6 election, but the new board members won't take office until January. The goal is to hire a new superintendent by February, just a month after the new board is seated.

We understand why the current school board, with Valerie Truesdale set to leave next month, wants to start the search. The board this week selected the same firm used in the search five years ago that resulted in Truesdale's hiring. Online surveys and focus groups are to begin in the next few weeks to identify the traits the board is seeking in a new superintendent.

Board members vow to involve the people elected in November. That involvement should include setting qualifications and winnowing candidates.

But how that can be done on par with sitting board members -- without officially taking office and with people who are headed out the door still serving on the board -- is a bit perplexing. We hope they can pull it off.

Ten of the 11 school board seats are up for election. Six of the races are contested; only two of those races involve incumbents. We're expecting write-in campaigns for the two seats that have no candidates on the ballot. Only three sitting board members are guaranteed to be back; two face each other and another competitor in the District 3 race. If incumbents defeat their challengers, we're still looking at six new board members and five returning board members.

The superintendent search five years ago played out this way: Edna Crews resigned the job in July 2006. Interim superintendent Phillip McDaniel was hired in mid-August 2006 on a month-to-month contract. Finalists were announced April 2, 2007; Truesdale was chosen April 10 and started July 1. McDaniel continued in the job until June 30.

Five new people were elected to the board in the November 2006 election. Four months passed before they were asked to make a decision about a new superintendent.

The board has named as interim superintendent the district's head of human resources, Jackie Rosswurm. When the decision was made, we were told she offered continuity and experience.

Board member Bill Evans, who is co-chairman of the board's search committee and is not up for re-election this year, says he would like to have the new superintendent under contract by February so that person can participate in the budget-setting process, spring personnel decisions and summer programs and training.

All fine goals if the right person is found on that timetable and new board members have ample opportunity to participate in a meaningful way.

But the most important goal is to get the best person for the job. Board members should know that better than anyone.

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