With Superintendent Kyle Hayden’s tentative transfer to chief operations officer less than two months away, the Lawrence school board is now in the beginning stages of finding his interim replacement.
During an executive session Wednesday, board members met with a representative from the Kansas Association of School Boards to discuss the process for finding an interim superintendent. By Thursday, a few details had emerged about how that process will unfold.
School board member Jessica Beeson told the Journal-World on Thursday that board members were provided a small pool of potential candidates from the KASB. Soon, school board president Marcel Harmon will begin to finalize interview dates with those candidates, Beeson said.
“With interims, you generally need to find them really quickly, and it’s a little less strenuous as a search process,” she said, compared to finding a superintendent. “They have a pool of people who are maybe just recently retired and want to come out of retirement for eight months to a year.”
The pool of candidates provided by the KASB aren’t necessarily looking for a permanent superintendent position, but, Beeson said, “they want to help” the district while it searches for Hayden’s replacement. Beeson also said that because the candidates have been supplied by the KASB, the school board is also obligated to follow KASB guidelines in the interim search. Under the KASB’s policy, she said, candidates won’t be announced until the day of their interviews, which likely won’t be public.
Those interviews, Beeson said, would likely take place in the first or second week of June. Shannon Kimball, the board’s vice president, said scheduling conflicts may push some interviews until the second or possibly third week of the month. However, Kimball also stressed the “expeditious” nature of the process — if Hayden is to tentatively assume his new COO role by July 1, the board will need to find his interim replacement by the end of June, Beeson and Kimball agreed.
In the meantime, the board will probably schedule one or more special meetings to “work out details of the interview process,” Kimball wrote in an email, though “dates for that work have not yet been finalized.”
“I think we need an interim (superintendent) who’s a strong leader and a good communicator, but this person’s role is really to hold the ship steady,” Beeson said, and work toward carrying out the initiatives and goals the board has already set. She’s not necessarily looking for someone to “come in and make a lot of changes,” she added.
“It’s a pretty standardized process,” Beeson said. “So, we will hopefully get a good person who has great experience and is able to step right in fairly seamlessly.”
In other matters from Wednesday’s meeting, the Journal-World further researched a statement from Board President Marcel Harmon about the district's previous decision not to release Hayden's proposed salary ahead of the school board voting on the contract.
Harmon defended the board’s decision to withhold Hayden’s proposed salary and contract by arguing that revealing information discussed during executive session would violate Kansas open-meetings law.
However, information from the Kansas Attorney General's office contradicts that statement. A frequently asked question page maintained by the Attorney General — who is responsible for enforcing the Kansas Open Meetings Act — addresses the question of whether elected officials can reveal information from an executive session. The Attorney General's answer is that the Kansas Open Meetings Act does nothing to prohibit officials from revealing information from an executive session. However, the website said there may be other laws or considerations officials would want to consider before revealing information from an executive session.
It is unclear how the executive session issue factored into the board's decision. The Journal-World did not request that discussions from the executive session be made public. Rather, the newspaper requested that the proposed COO contract be made public before the board voted to approve it. Initially, the district rejected that request, but ultimately it took that course of action. The district released the contract at the Wednesday meeting and then agreed to delay the vote on the contract until its Monday meeting.