Four out of five new principals in Lawrence schools were plucked from posts outside the district.
The outside hires are becoming a trend, some say.
Eighteen of the district's 23 principals came directly from positions outside Lawrence.
For some within the district, such figures are a source of concern and point to what frustrates some ambitious employees. For others, they aren't a sign of anything.
"It seems that working in the district as a teacher and trying to move up has become more difficult in the past few years," said Sam Rabiola, an English teacher at Free State High and president of the Lawrence Education Assn.
Rabiola said the district has lost talented people who leave to take administrative positions in other districts.
But Mary Rodriguez, the district's human resources executive director, disagrees that there is a movement afloat.
"I think it's just a matter of who is the best match for the building at that point in time," she said.
The district this year welcomes new principals at South Junior High, Central Junior High, Wakarusa Valley and Kennedy schools, and East Heights Early Childhood Family Center. Of those, only East Heights Principal Cris Anderson comes immediately from a position within the district: lead administrator at East Heights.
Central Junior High Principal Frank Harwood started his first day Friday. He comes to Lawrence after being an administrator in Leavenworth.
"I couldn't even tell you why I was chosen over any of the other candidates - inside or outside," he said. "I feel like I have a lot to offer this position, and I was able to convey that."
The transition will take time, Harwood said.
"Anytime you have a change in principals in a building, there has got to be some apprehension," he said. "Mr. (Ted) Juneau did a wonderful job and there are a lot of things that he was doing that I will continue, but my style will be different, and there's no way around that. There will be people who like me, and there will be people who don't. With that many people around, that happens."
As new administrators come, others who have aspired to administrative positions in Lawrence are leaving.
Mike Hess says he is a homegrown Lawrence resident. He graduated from Lawrence High School. He spent 15 out of 23 years in education in the Lawrence district. He was a teacher at Lawrence High for 10 years and a teacher at Free State High for five.
Hess has applied for 10 administrative positions since 1999. After being passed over for each one, he is leaving. He will be principal of Jefferson County North High, he said.
"It's fair to say that the buzz is if you apply once and don't get it, then you don't have much chance," Hess said. "Good talent is leaving, and it'll take time to see if the talent that replaces it is better than the talent that is leaving."
Jeff Harkin, who has been interim assistant principal at Southwest Junior High, is also headed to another school outside the district.
He has been in the district for 12 years, and he wanted to stay, he said.
He applied for an administrative position at Wakarusa Valley School, but did not get the job. He isn't sour about it, he said.
"I felt like the district gave me a very good opportunity to present myself and what I would bring to an elementary school," he said.
Harkin is taking an administrative position in the Olathe district. He may return to Lawrence schools someday, he said.
"(Southwest) was a great training ground for me," he said. "It's not uncommon to move to another district and then come back later."
District staff point out that some current principals may have worked in the district, left for another district and then returned. That means some of the 18 principals who came from external positions had ties to Lawrence schools.
For example, Free State High Principal Joe Snyder worked in the district as a math coordinator from 1991-93. He then left to join Turner High School in Kansas City, Kan., where he worked until he became principal of Free State High.
Superintendent Randy Weseman said the district doesn't have a mentoring program for aspiring administrators. He said persistence pays off when seeking an administrative seat. He started as a teacher at Lawrence High in 1976.
"I guess I'm a pretty good example that if you stay focused you can achieve the goals you want to achieve in the place you want to achieve them," he said. "Our interview process seeks to find the best principal and the best match for the job."
Typically, there are many more external applicants than internal. Of 61 applicants for the Central Junior High principal position, nine were internal, according to the district.
Rabiola said he has seen who he believes are strong internal candidates passed over for administrative positions.
"I don't know if it's the fresh perspective they're looking for," he said. "Outside that, I can't see what a candidate outside the district would have that some of our in-house folks would not."
Rodriguez said a principal has to be a good fit for the specific position.
"Each building seems to have their own things they're looking for in a leader," she said.
Fifty-one percent of the decision is up to the superintendent, Rodriguez said, but many people are involved in the screening and interview process.
"It is done with a lot of input from a lot of people," she said. "There are a lot of pieces that go into it. It's not just a flippant decision."
Where did they come from?
A majority of the school district's principals worked in other districts before they came to Lawrence. A few came from inside the district. Where they worked: Broken Arrow | Larry Bakerink was a substitute teacher in Iowa before becoming principal in 1982. Cordley | Kim Bodensteiner was assistant director of Three Lakes Educational Cooperative in Lyndon before becoming principal in 2000. Deerfield | Suzie Soyster was an elementary principal in Iowa City, Iowa, before becoming principal in 1992. East Heights Early Childhood Family Center | Cris Anderson was East Heights' lead administrator before becoming principal in 2005. Hillcrest | Tammy Becker was principal of Soderstrom School in Lindsborg before becoming principal in 2001. Kennedy | Felton Avery was principal of Grandview Middle School, south of Kansas City, Mo., before becoming principal in 2005. Langston Hughes | Lisa Williams was curriculum specialist with Kansas City, Kan., public schools before becoming principal in 2003. New York | Nancy DeGarmo was K-8 principal and transportation director for Lyndon public schools before becoming principal in 2004. Pinckney | Lesa Frantz was principal of Basehor Elementary School before becoming principal in 1996. Prairie Park | David Williams was principal of Shumway Elementary in Chandler, Ariz., before becoming principal in 2001. Quail Run | Paulette Strong was principal of Grant and Woodlawn elementary schools before becoming principal in 2000. Schwegler | Angelique Kobler had been elementary principal for the Solomon school before becoming principal in 2004. Sunflower | Jill Smith was principal of Louisburg Elementary School in Louisburg before becoming principal in 2000. Sunset Hill | Chris Bay was teacher at Grant School in Lawrence before becoming principal in 2000. Wakarusa Valley | Elias Espinosa was principal at L.V. Stockard Middle School in Dallas before becoming principal in 2005. Woodlawn | Joni Appleman was principal of Stout School in Topeka before becoming principal in 2000. Central Junior High | Frank Harwood was an administrator in Leavenworth before becoming principal in 2005. South Junior High | Will Fernandez was principal of Dodge City Middle School before becoming principal in 2005. Southwest Junior High | Trish Bransky was Lawrence High School's assistant principal for curriculum and instruction before becoming principal in 1995. West Junior High | Myron Melton was principal of Langston Hughes School before becoming principal in 2003. Free State High | Joe Snyder was principal at Turner High School in Kansas City, Kan., before becoming principal in 1996. Lawrence High | Steve Nilhas was superintendent of the Hill City school district before becoming principal in 2003. Virtual School | Gary Lewis was educational specialist with the De Soto school district before becoming principal in 2004.