PARENT COUNCILS UNITED — SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH RECOMMENDATION
Parent Councils United, with membership from throughout DeKalb County, works to strengthen our school district by providing a collaborative forum for educational issues. Our focus is promoting a stronger school system with positive education outcomes for students.
Superintendent Search Recommendation
Our goal is to engage leading stakeholders, building on recent positive steps in our school district. We see an inclusive and transparent superintendent hiring process as a valuable next-step in forging a stronger foundation of trust within the district.
Brief Superintendent History
The last 12 years in DeKalb have yielded five superintendents, including two formal searches and two interim assignments. Selected superintendents were ousted early at a cost to tax payers as contract payments continued.
- 2002 – Dr. Johnny Brown hired. Search and selection process was hazy; even some Board of Ed members questioned how he so quickly rose to the top and was selected. Regardless, the Board and he parted company in 2004. The Board continued to pay his contract.
- 2004 – Dr. Crawford Lewis was immediately appointed to fill Brown’s position. It was unclear at the time if he was an interim or permanent, but the Board chose to look no further. No formal search initiated.
- 2010- Lewis indicted; Ramona Tyson appointed as interim.
- 2011- Board search and selection process for new superintendent seemed publically flawed when a top candidate withdrew. Atkinson was hired with a 6-3 Board vote.
- 2013 – Rumors of a replacement circulated prior to Atkinson leaving. After her resignation, the Board continued paying her contract. Michael Thurmond hired as interim without formal search & selection process.
- 2013 – Governor ousts six Board members, appoints new ones, leaves newly elected.
- 2014 – Michael Thurmond’s extended contract ends June 2015. Search and selection process begins.
DeKalb County School District recently sent sealed bid requests to 41 superintendent search firms to assist the Board as it seeks a superintendent replacement. Only four search firms replied. Concerned with the lack of response, the purchasing department rereleased an updated request to 129 entities with bids to be unsealed November 12, 2014.
PCU, questioning why thirty-seven firms chose to opt out, requested the vendor list. The required open records request was denied because of District sealed bid procurement regulations.
We view the failure to attract top-rated search firms and to reach out to the community at the beginning of this multi-step process to be troubling.
Not all districts choose a sealed bid process for search firm selection.
A cursory internet search shows numerous districts opt for an open selection process. Many boards choose to interview firms publically and ask questions after presentations; seeking not always the cheapest firm but “the best fit.”
A Dallas Morning News report included a list of firms the Plano system was considering, and background on the three firms making the final interview process.
One district website stated:
As part of the inclusive process, there are three major opportunities for the public to be involved: 1) during the selection of an executive search firm in an open Board meeting, 2) identifying characteristics of a future Superintendent and attributes of the community in order to attract qualified candidates, and 3) in the final selection process of Superintendent candidates.
PCU recommends a DeKalb School District Superintendent search and selection process in keeping with those completed in Atlanta and Boston. Both school systems established independent search committees. Both systems trusted a group of local leaders to provide a broad base of experience and perspective to find the best search firm and the best superintendent candidates.
A respected independent selection committee signals to both the community and superintendent candidates that DeKalb County is ready to build on the foundation of change experienced during the tenure of our most recent superintendent.
Parent Councils United of DeKalb believes that the level of public engagement and transparency demonstrated by the formation of an independent Superintendent Search and Selection Committee will build a more trusting and inviting environment when we welcome a new superintendent to our DeKalb community.
DSW Note: We agree wholeheartedly. We need to have an open, public selection process and we need to get started yesterday!