The Beaufort County Board of Education winnowed a pool of more than 100 candidates for superintendent to a list of seven semi-finalists Wednesday.
The board met with its search firm, Ray and Associates, behind closed doors for six hours to screen applicants who have applied for the district's top post.
A candidate could be hired as soon as next month, based on the board's previously stated timeline.
Interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm has said she will not apply for the position.
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Rosswurm took over after Valerie Truesdale retired in October. Truesdale announced her retirement July 20 just before accepting a job overseeing technology for the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District in North Carolina.
Interviews of semi-finalists will begin next week, board Chairman Bill Evans said.
"There were 122 applicants from 42 states -- 12 from South Carolina," Evans said Wednesday night. "The consultants, through background checks and vetting, brought the board 11 candidates for further review, and the board will interview seven in the first round of interviews."
Interviews will take place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.
After interviews, the board will meet again with the consultant to select at least three finalists, who will undergo a second round of interviews.
"Those names will be released," Evans said, adding that finalists will be brought to the district for a tour and to be questioned by district staff, teachers and the public.
He expected the second round of interviews to take place Feb. 12 to 15, depending on the candidates' availability.
"It is fully expected and encouraged that staff and (the) public present their thoughts to board members," Evans said.
The search firm and board will then negotiate a contract, including salary, which the job posting says is "in the range of $215,000."
He said the board hopes to hire a new superintendent by the first week in March and for its choice to start work no later than July 1.
"There were fantastic candidates to choose from, and (we) had a very difficult time getting down to the seven," Evans said, adding there was consensus by the board on the seven semi-finalists.
"It was clear in our conversation people were looking for someone with significant experience either as a sitting superintendent or a deputy in a large district," he said. "We had some applicants apply from some very large districts around the country, who aren't superintendents, but are in the No. 2 or 3 slot."
Laura Bush, chairwoman of the board's search committee, said the district was also looking for good communicators with proven success implementing programs to increase student performance and involve the community.
"On paper, they have strategies for closing achievement gaps and involving the community," Bush said. "They also come from districts with diverse backgrounds and (have) good working relationships with their school boards. The seven candidates are very good prospects for our next superintendent, and we look forward to meeting them face to face."