As Lawrence school board members prepare to find a replacement for Superintendent Randy Weseman, who announced his retirement Thursday, they know their work is cut out for them.
Weseman will have served nine years as superintendent by the time he leaves office June 30, and school board president Craig Grant said Weseman's intimate knowledge of the community, drawn from 33 years in the district, will be tough to replace.
"We're going to need to make sure that the next person understands the size of the district we have, understands the problems this district has as it relates to the growth of the students," he said.
"We need someone who is going to continue the efforts the board has been making in terms of academic achievement," said board member John Mitchell. "I think we need someone who really has proven skills in the business-management side of running a school district. We want someone who will be willing to learn about our community and our district and work with us, rather than come in with a pre-set blueprint."
Grant said the board would conduct a national search for the next superintendent and would consider hiring a consultant to find the best fit. The last time the district conducted a national search was for Weseman's predecessor, Kathleen Williams, who served from 1998 to 2000.
While current school district employees may be considered, Grant said he did not expect Weseman's replacement to come from within the district.
Mitchell said the board shouldn't rule out any applicants. He wasn't sure whether anyone in the district was interested in the position.
"If there are folks within the district who have an interest, they'll let us know," he said.
Just where the school board will find money to retain a consultant is up in the air. Discussions are preliminary, and board members have yet to hash out a plan regarding the expenses of searching for Weseman's replacement. Mitchell said the funds could come from next year's budget.
"We'll find the money within our budget. We've got to do that," he said. "I'm sure we'll build a contingency in for paying for that kind of service."
Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent, said there could be disadvantages to hiring an outside candidate who is unfamiliar with the district. But, he said, there is value in new ideas.
Passman, who could be considered for the post, said he would work with the school board to ensure a seamless hand-off.
"I have an interest in making sure the transition is smooth and helping make sure the school board can make that transition any way I can," he said.
Former school board member Leonard Ortiz said candidates both inside the district and beyond should be considered.
"There are advantages to both. There are people who are familiar and people who bring an outside perspective," said Ortiz, who served on the school board from 2003 to 2007. "You've got to do what's best for the kids."