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Trustees agreed to a tentative calender proposed by consultants from Executive Search Services in a special school board meeting Tuesday.
“We want him on board before the end of the school year, so he’ll have all summer and be ready when the next year starts,” Board President George Fisher said.
Executive Search Services, part of the Texas Association of School Boards, developed the calender based on the board’s goal of hiring a new superintendent before spring break. Some of the dates involved are subject to all trustees giving their approval since Trustee Dale Henry and Trustee Dr. Gordon Strom left early.
The first step is a series of community profile sessions. It’s not mandatory, said Butch Felkner, director of Executive Search Services, but most of their clients do.
“We’re here for a day, and we open it up to people who would like to come talk with us,” he said. “We’re trying to put together a picture of the kind of superintendent you’re looking for.”
A school board version is set for 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 15. Community sessions would likely be held on days around that meeting, Felkner said. The sessions are open to the public, including students and district staff.
Henry noted that if past events are any indication, only a handful of people will show up. It’s important to give the option, William Smith, a field services representative with ESS, and Felkner both said. In addition to the meetings, ESS will have a link placed on the Paris ISD website where visitors can fill out a survey. No one in the district will see any of the responses, as the survey is on TASB’s site, Felkner said.
“We’re nobody. They don’t know us. We don’t know them,” Smith said. “So they can stay and vent.”
On Nov. 27, the consultants are scheduled to return with a report culled from the comments received. It will also include a list of qualifications and characteristics of the kind of superintendent the district is looking for.
Once the school board signs off on that list, it becomes part of the application. Candidates will have to address each point in narrative fashion.
“It’s a bit more than reading a resume,” Felkner said.
Fisher questioned whether PISD’s recent discussions about consolidating districts might not scare off some applicants. It might give some pause, Felkner said, but it wouldn’t keep Paris from getting more than 50 candidates, including 30 or so that are actually qualified.
“Any candidate worth his salt will research you just like you’re going to research them,” Smith said. “Some will be up to the challenge; some won’t.”
Most of ESS’s searches find candidates outside the district, although the process is designed to insure the best possible candidate is hired, whether from within the district or outside, Felkner said.
“The game here is to find the best match for Paris ISD basedon the situation you’re in right now,” Smith said. “We’re looking for a match, someone all seven board members can support.”
That is more important than might be expected, Felkner said. The number one cause for superintendents to leave their jobs in Texas is the board-superintendent relationship.
Once the Dec. 19 deadline is past and all the applications are in, ESS will compile a CD with the candidates’ information to deliver to school board members after the first of the year. Felkner warned that all the information on those discs must be kept confidential.
Consultants and trustees are set to meet in a three-hour session Jan. 9 to review the applications. School board members are asked to bring a list of about eight names they’re interested in. The lists will be compiled and narrowed down to a field of six to bring in for first-round interviews.
In addition to what’s on the CDs, the consultants will have other pertinent back ground inflammation on candidates.
“We’re going to have the good, the bad and the ugly, because we do a lot of homework,” Felkner said. “We’re not going to talk anybody up or down. Our job is to give you the information.”
Applicants will come from all over the country, not just Texas, Felkner said.
“Nothing’s limited to a state these days,” Smith said. “It’s the Internet.”
Those six will be interviewed Jan. 15-17, two a night with each candidate getting 90 minutes. Each candidate gets the same questions in a structured interview process designed to see how they think on their feet.
Trustees are expected to meet at noon Jan. 18 to winnow that field down to the top three, who will be interviewed two weeks later in a much less structured environment that begins with a social gathering to meet spouses as well as the candidates.
Then on Jan. 31, the trustees are expected to meet and decide on their final choice. Up to three board members would travel to that applicant’s home district Feb. 5 to talk to people there.
“The site visit is set by the candidate, hich means the candidate gets to stack the deck,” Felkner said. “But you can talk to whomever you ant. You have that flexibility.”
The next day, those board members would report their experiences to the rest of the board. Assuming everything went well up to that point, that would also be the day the board publicly announced its lone finalist. State law requires a 21-day opt-out period where either the district or applicant could back out of the deal.
If all goes according to plan, the board could vote Feb. 28 to hire PISD’s next superintendent. When that person actually came on board would be a matter of negotiations.