Several Lawrence school board members think five months is plenty of time to find a new superintendent, but one board member proposes hiring an interim superintendent to provide more time for selecting a permanent successor to Lawrence School Supt. Dan Neuenswander.
The board Tuesday night held a preliminary discussion on finding Neuenswander's replacement shortly after approving his resignation, which will be effective June 30. Neuenswander will become superintendent in the Pittsburg school district.
Board member Tom Murray said this morning that "as someone who is new to the school board, I am not particularly comfortable with having to pick a new superintendent immediately."
Murray suggested at Tuesday night's meeting that the board hire an interim superintendent for a year "so we can approach the process (of choosing a permanent successor) as carefully as possible."
But most board members did not take to the suggestion.
BOARD member Alice Fowler said that with the district's excellent reputation, which she attributed partly to Neuenswander's work, the district will be inundated with candidate applications.
"We will have excellent qualities and qualifications to choose from," she said.
Board Vice President Barbara Ballard agreed.
"I don't think we're going to want for quality applicants," she said.
Board member John Tacha carried those sentiments one step farther, saying, "It's important to me not to have an interim superintendent."
For one thing, Tacha said this morning, "I think we have a lot of time. A lot of people are going to want to come to Lawrence because we have already implemented a lot of things that school districts are expected to do."
Also, he said, it's important that the next superintendent feel "ownership" in the policies and programs that already have been put into place.
MURRAY SAID that might be difficult because "right now, we're in the middle of some very trying times, radical changes."
But Fowler said the board simply will have to find a candidate who agrees with the direction that the board is taking.
"I don't think we should put what we want to do on hold to adapt to a new person," she said.
Said Murray this morning, "While it is important for the new superintendent to be compatible with members of the school board, the most important aspect of this in my opinion is for the new superintendent's views to be generally consistent with the views of the taxpayers within USD 497 as to where they want their educational system to go."
The board Tuesday night approved listing the opening of the superintendent's position in professional publications. It also agreed to discuss possible selection processes on Monday.
BOARD President Mary Loveland said the board has at least four options:
Requesting the assistance of the Kansas Association of School Board's search team.
Hiring an independent consulting firm to assist the board.
Conducting the search without any outside assistance.
Asking Kansas University's School of Education to provide the district with three facilitators to help in the process. Loveland said that according to Ed Meyen, KU's dean of education, the department would have faculty available to serve in such a capacity.
The district worked with KU in the hiring of Neuenswander in 1984, and the board decided to invite Mary Lou Wright, a former board member who took part in the selection of Neuenswander, to talk about how the process worked.
The board will continue its discussion of selecting a superintendent during a study session at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the district's Service Center, 3705 Clinton Pkwy. The session will precede the board's regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.