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Board set to interview job candidates

8/4/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

An interim superintendent could be in place by the time USD 489 superintendent Will Roth retires Oct. 1.

The board of education set Aug. 16 for interviewing the five candidates who have applied for the job, said Greg Schwartz, board president.

"The hope is to get somebody sooner rather than later."

None of the candidates are "in-house," he said.

One candidate contacted the school district. The other four candidates came from a list generated by the Kansas Association of School Boards. All are former superintendents -- retired or working as consultants.

The short timeframe for the search, finding a good fit and the proximity of the hiring district to the candidates, are the biggest challenges in finding a suitable interim superintendent, said Brian Jordan, KASB director of leadership services.

Districts sometimes find it difficult to find a candidate with experience relevant to their situation, Jordan said.

He said KASB doesn't offer advice on which candidate to hire.

"We want the board to feel comfortable with who they select," Jordan said.

Two hours are allotted for each candidate interview conducted by all seven board members, if possible, Schwartz said.

Some interview questions might be provided by KASB, but "I've got a list of my questions, (and) each board member will have their own questions," he said. "Everybody has kind of got their own niche area that they think is important, so they will attack those areas."

In an email, board member Lance Bickle likened the superintendent to a business CEO who will "chart the course and set the tone of the district."

The board likely will conduct a national search to fill the superintendent position permanently, but in the meantime, the interim should be someone with the experience and background to "help us get some of the changes implemented that we're looking at this year without waiting another year," Schwartz said.

"Open communication is key to moving the district in the right direction," Bickle wrote.

Board member Marty Patterson said he is looking for "a strong leader with a presence in the community -- a very active and visible one."

Being able to manage people and allocate financial resources and adapting to changing circumstances are important qualities for a superintendent, Bickle said.

"We have great leaders in this district and staff, but we've got to have the management piece to make sure everything's working together," Schwartz said.

Schwartz expects the board will conduct reference and background checks, as well as talk to candidates' former board members and people in the communities where they live and worked.

The person chosen as interim could be on the list for the permanent position.

Roth's contract runs until June 30, 2015, and he initially planned to retire July 1, 2014.

"The board requested an earlier retirement date and the board and I are working together to develop a plan to make a transition to the new leadership team," Roth wrote in an email to the USD 489 staff about his earlier retirement date.

"Will's a great person," Schwartz said. "He's very good with curriculum. When it comes to budget and the management side of it, I don't know if that was his strong point."

"Will Roth made Hays a better place," Patterson said.

Schwartz, board vice president Darren Schumacher and other board members recently have raised concerns with several issues such as contract and evaluation dates, and an increase in the number of workers compensation claims, which resulted in a much higher premium. There also have been concerns about the school district's budget.

If the board "directed Will Roth to do X, Y and Z, Will would do those things," Schwartz said. "The concern was whether or not they (administrators) would be able to identify all the problems."