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Lake Placid school board prepares for superintendent search

October 2, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer (cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Central School District is getting ready to start its search for a new superintendent.

The district's Board of Education hosted a work session Monday night to discuss the process for finding the district's next superintendent. The meeting included a phone conference with Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, who has years of experience helping school districts look for administrators.

Over the summer, the board decided not to renew its contract with Superintendent Randy Richards, meaning he will step down at the end of this school year. The district is currently looking for a new middle-high school principal, and is expected to begin a search for an assistant principal or dean of students once a new principal is hired.

Throughout Monday night's meeting, Kremer stressed that the board must take ownership of the search process for a new superintendent.

"This is your search," Kremer said. "I am going to be pretty protective of the board throughout this process."

School board President Mary Dietrich said the board wanted to take advantage of the services NYSSBA offers. Those services include advice on searching for administrators.

"They are the organization that has that information first hand and has a lot of experience with it," Dietrich told the Enterprise. "It made sense to us to go with them. Plus Kremer has the background in that."

Kremer said he will help the board with its search, but added that he has no vested interest in the outcome. He said the board must make its own decisions along the way.

The session covered several key areas of the search, including:

-An overview of the search process

-Board responsibilities and decisions

-What to expect from a search consultant and the school's attorney.

Kremer said the board will need to consider things like staff and community input; search committees; recruiting tactics; interview questions; reference checks and site visits; confidentiality issues; internal candidates; and whether an interim superintendent will be necessary.

One of the big questions the board will need to consider is whether to hire a consultant to assist with the search. Kremer stressed that NYSSBA doesn't endorse search firms and doesn't have a relationship with any of them, although he provided the board with a list of possible firms.

Kremer said the board will want to have an open discussion with search firms.

"You need to know: Who are they working for? Are they working for you? Or are they working for a stable of candidates?" he said.

Dietrich said the board hasn't discussed hiring a search firm yet.

"We're not ready to answer that," she said. "I think there's a lot of pluses to doing that. It would cost money, but if it helps ensure that we get a really dynamic leader in place, I think it's money well spent."

Board member Janet Smith asked how much search firms charge for their services. Kremer said it's usually a negotiated flat fee that can range from $7,500 up to $40,000, plus expenses. It could get even pricier if the search firm needs to send consultants in from far away.

"If you're dealing with somebody more accessible, obviously the expenses will be less," Kremer said.

Kremer also encouraged the board to have a meaningful conversation about the issues that will be most critical to the district over the next three to five years. He said that discussion should include the staff and community members.

"Really be serious about that," Kremer said. "No frivolous stuff. No one shots. Really the big policy level, strategic level things that are going to drive public education in Lake Placid for the next five years.

"Then you want to have a discussion about, 'What do we see as the superintendent's role in addressing those issues?'"

Kremer said the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

"The best person you're going to find is somebody who has been there, done that," he said. "They've dealt with the issues you're going to deal with, and they've done so successfully."

The decision could boil down to experience versus potential, Kremer said.

Kremer also went over sample timelines with the board, and talked about finding a superintendent who is "board savvy," because the superintendent's relationship with the board can make or break the hire.

Kremer said the board must also make sure school staff and the public believe in the search process.

"You need to sell to staff and community early on that this is a credible process," he said. "If they have faith in the process, there's a better chance that they'll have faith in the person you select."

"I think you have to involve them, or you have to communicate what that process is, and let them have some feedback," Dietrich told the Enterprise. "My take is, the community wants to feel like they're being listened to, so it's important to involve them."

Dietrich said the early phases of the search provide an opportunity for the community to get involved.

The search process could take four to six months, according to Kremer. Dietrich said it could be done in four months, but six months is "optimal."

"The issue with that is it's a really time consuming process for the board that's going on at the same time the budget process is going on," she said.

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Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.

 
 

 

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