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Citizens Offer School Board Input on New Leader
March 12, 2008 - While only about 20 patrons attended Tuesday's public forum on the Charles A. Beard School Board's search for a new superintendent, more than half of them took the opportunity to offer input on characteristics they think the next superintendent should have.
The forum began with a brief overview of the selection process by Board President Mike Fruth. He said CAB was again using the four-member University Consulting Team (UCT), comprised of representatives from Indiana, Purdue, Ball State and Indiana State universities.
Fruth said all applications are being sent to the UCT, which will conduct an initial screening of job applicants prior to an executive session the board will hold May 6. At that meeting, which is closed to the public, Fruth said the board will review applications of candidates recommended by the UCT, with a goal toward narrowing the field to just a few candidates. He said the board wanted to hold final interviews by the end of May, with the goal of having someone hired by July 1.
Several people who spoke at last night's forum asked about whether the board is seeking someone with a strong background in school finance as well as curriculum. Kennard resident Steve Dalton, who is running for the Greensboro Township seat on the board in the May 6 election, was the first person to raise this issue.
Fruth said that when Superintendent David McGuire was hired in 2006, the board decided to hire a business manager to compensate for McGuire's weakness in the finance area. With the business manager position now in place and filled, Fruth said the board will probably be more concerned with finding someone strong in curriculum, like McGuire had been.
Wayne Township resident Mark Fort, also a candidate in the May 6 election, asked whether the board would be willing to hire someone with the financial skills to do the job now handled by CAB's business manager. Fruth expressed concern about whether one person could handle both curriculum and finances and noted that prior to McGuire, CAB had a superintendent and a curriculum director.
Jamie Maxwell, a Wayne Township resident, told the board that people in the community are still struggling to deal with the property tax burden placed on them by the school corporation. He said finding a superintendent who can handle both curriculum and financial matters and eliminating the business manager position is "critical" and "crucial" to ease the burden on taxpayers.
Wayne Township resident Jill Null told the board that she believed the University Consulting Team working with the board on its search was biased toward candidates who are more curriculum-oriented. She said she also believed it's important for the new superintendent to have strong financial experience. "Personally, I think we need somebody who can stretch a dollar from here to Terre Haute," Null said.
Knightstown resident Peg Mayhilltold the board she thought it was important for them to thoroughly research job applicants. Saying, "You don't want to just rely on what they put down on paper," Mayhill suggested that board members visit applicants' communities and ask people there what they think about them.
Fruth told Mayhill that visiting the applicants' communities "is part of the process." Later in the forum, board member Kevin Knott clarified that the school board had not taken advantage of that option during the 2006 search, adding that he agreed it was something that should be done.
Knightstown resident Dorothy Hatton told the board she wanted them to hire someone who "has a vision for what this school corporation can be." She cautioned the board against hiring an older person close to retirement age and stressed the importance of finding an open, responsible person who wants to be in Knightstown and who has new ideas.
Banner publisher and owner Eric Cox, who said he was addressing the board as a constituent and parent of two students, said he agreed with much of what Hatton said. He said the new superintendent should be someone who is "honest, open and forthright" and who will put the needs of students and teachers before administrators. Cox also questioned the board's decision to go nearly a year without filling the position following McGuire's resignation last July.
Responding to the board's delay in starting their search, Fruth said that when McGuire resigned last July, it was a bad time to try to fill the vacancy. He said that the number of candidates are generally down in the summer and that most superintendent applicants had already found jobs for the 2007-2008 school year.
Board Vice President Wade Beatty told Cox that the state requires three-year contracts for superintendents. He said that when McGuire resigned, the board didn't want to make a hasty decision and hire the wrong person.
Knightstown business owner Ron Short told the board he didn't think Knightstown would be seen as a very desirable area to many superintendent applicants. He said he questioned whether the UCT would be successful in providing the board with good candidates, saying their efforts in locating McGuire had resulted in "a lot of cover up that no one wants to talk about."
Fruth replied that there "are no guarantees." He said he thought, however, that the UCT was the best option for CAB finding a good superintendent.
Former school board member Gerald Leonard said he thought it was important for the new superintendent to be able to write grant applications, or to be able to show someone else how to do it. He said the ability to get grants for CAB would help alleviate some of the tax burden.
Former CAB Superintdent Bob Myers also told the board that he thought it was important for board members to visit the applicants' communities and research their backgrounds. He also asked the board if they would have access to all of the applications received by the UCT.
Fruth said the board could have access to all the applications, but had chosen to leave the initial screening to the consultants. He said this helps ensure some level of confidentiality to applicants, whose current employers may not know they're looking for a job elsewhere.
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