ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The search for a new superintendent for USD 480 is now officially under way.
Wednesday, the USD 480 school board met with Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) representative Steve Karlin to talk about beginning the search process.
“I would say this is one of the most important functions a school board has, selecting a superintendent,” Karlin said. “This is a really interesting time for this district since there was just an election a few weeks ago and there will be three new board members coming up. This is also really the best situation you could have, because you have the opportunity to gain some input from some board members who have experience and input from the new board members coming in. It’s great having all these people involved in the process, because there’s nothing worse than hiring someone and then everyone clashing.”
Karlin then talked about the search process and what all it would entail.
“To start off, I’ll visit with the board four times throughout this process, starting with this introductory meeting, after which there will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes,” Karlin said. “The first thing that will need to be done will be getting the job posted and getting promotional materials developed around it. We have people who help with that who will work with the district’s communications staff to help with this work on these types of searches. Once we have the promotional materials, it would be good to run it by a few district administrators to make sure everything is the way it needs to be. This process will also entail a lot of extra work from everyone, so it’s definitely an all-hands-on-deck situation. Normally, the search process would take between 10 and 12 weeks, and that’s from the conclusion of this introductory meeting through getting someone signed on and under contract. We could do this process faster, but Dr. (Todd) Carter’s timing was excellent, and I don’t think there’s really any need to expedite the process. Once the promotional materials are out, the next phase of the process is to help the district and community develop the characteristics being sought in the next superintendent, and there are a couple things we do to help with that. But the main goal is for this to be firmly in the hands of the district. The goal is typically to have the surveys open for two or three weeks, and then we collect that data and bring that back to the board at our next meeting.”
The process will also include some focus groups, Karlin said.
“The focus groups are comprised of targeted groups, and it’s ultimately up to the district who is part of that,” Karlin said. “Districts typically do between three and six groups, and sample groups might include district administration, community leaders, students, parents, certified staff, etc., but the district ultimately gets to decide what those groups will be. We’ll conduct the focus groups, but we’ll work with the district’s communications staff to help put everything together. All those focus groups will take place over a day, and either that night or the next day is when I’ll come back for that next meeting, and all that data will be available to be shared with the board, and then the most important characteristics will be decided upon as far as what you want in the next superintendent.”
The next phase of the process, Karlin said, will be screening the applicants.
“We want to be able to use that survey data for the screening process, and we want to know what’s important to you as a board so we can look for those characteristics in the applicants,” Karlin said. “We use two processes to screen applicants, including using some colleagues of mine from across the state who have worked in various levels of education and administration who have similar jobs to mine. Once the position closes, I will do a deep dive into each of the applicants and review their references – if there are gaps, I will reach out to other people to understand that person’s background. I will also gather information and do a social media scan on these people. It’s my job to investigate who these candidates are, review their applications for completeness and all of that, and then I’ll ask my colleagues to do some review of their own and get their feedback. After that, I’ll put together a group with two current superintendents who can relate to your district in some way, whether it’s demographics or geography, etc., and then they will also give some feedback.”
All of that work, Karlin said, will lead to the third gathering.
“At our third meeting, I will have all the feedback put together and will have narrowed the field down to three to five candidates who we would best recommend for interviews,” Karlin said. “At that meeting, which will be primarily an executive session, I will go over, in depth, those candidates. And we can make our recommendations to you, but you are more than free to make your own decision since, again, it’s YOUR district. That meeting will also include discussion on salary and benefits and all that information. Shortly after that is when the decision will be made as far as who will be interviewed for the position, and we do have some recommendations on how to do the interviews. After all of that, the decision is up to you about who your next superintendent will be.”
The rest of the meeting’s discussion comprised of setting dates for the focus group sessions, the survey going live and the interview dates before concluding at 1:10 p.m.