As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” As speculation mounts that we’ll soon be in need of a new superintendent, it’s a good time to tell you the saga of the last superintendent search. It’s a cautionary tale.
The superintendent search was the most arduous and difficult task I dealt with while on the Board. I almost resigned a couple of times due to the ensuing train wreck I was powerless to stop. I always thought reasoned argument amongst board members would win out in the end. I thought facts mattered. Alas, how naive I was.
Let’s start with our search firm Ray and Associates. Some of our board will tell you Ray and Associates did a poor job. I thought they were quite professional and delivered quality candidates that met our requirements. As the BOE reviewed candidates, some of my fellow Board members ruled out candidates that had top-notch credentials and solid records that clearly met the requirements we designed. With each ridiculous objection, the selection criteria morphed into something else. Ray and Associates grew very frustrated because the BOE had them chasing their tail. In our original criteria we wanted a superintendent with communication and media skills, success in a challenged school system, ability to raise student achievement, and capable of removing the bloat from the central office . I was looking for a clean break and preferred that we not choose anyone with ties to DeKalb County.
The day we started the process I was full of anticipation. I had the opportunity to help make a choice that could fix our faltering district. At this point I was unaware of the hidden criteria for picking a superintendent.
We met to study resumes. We spent hours reviewing stacks of applications and resumes. I learned a great deal about my colleagues’ study capabilities. We all isolated ourselves around the room and began to read. We did not have discussions with each other during the entire period. Representatives from Ray and Associates were in the room to answer any questions. I took notes on each candidate. Some Board members seemed to have difficulty staying on task. Attention spans were all over the place. Those who did not take notes had a very difficult time at the end of the process remembering who was who. That is when one of our members asked if we could have pictures of the candidates. I knew then we had a real problem. Ray and Associates provided an “easy” matrix system evaluation so we could see where all our candidates stood as we ranked them in several categories. Two of our members never could really do the matrix system. The consulting firm had to show them how to add their numbers. I think the highest number we had to deal with was seven. You would assume that after awhile everyone would figure it out. These two never did. We probably did these rankings about four times.
Continue reading this saga on Don McChesney’s blog …