By Curt Yeomans
Several members of the Clayton County Board of Education said they wanted a new superintendent search firm on Saturday, citing a desire to hire someone local, and to separate themselves from the former school board.
The board is in the early stages of a national search to find someone who will lead the district after Superintendent John Thompson's contract expires in June. One of the first decisions to be made is who will conduct the search.
The board has not decided if the Illinois-based search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which conducted a permanent superintendent search last year, will be used. That search was put on hiatus so a corrective school chief could be sought.
"I think we need to go with somebody different, because we don't want it to come out -- we just need a clean slate," said board member Jessie Goree.
The board held a training session on how to search for a superintendent, and evaluate a school chief. The training was led by Don Rooks and Tony Arasi, from the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA).
Board member Michael King asked Rooks for a list of top search firms. When Rooks said he did not have a list, King asked for the name of the firm that conducted the last superintendent search for Atlanta Public Schools.
Rooks did not have that information, either.
Board member Pamela Adamson said her uneasiness with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates is that the company is based in Chicago. She suggested the board seek assistance from someone closer to home, such as the Georgia School Boards Association.
"I have concerns about using a search firm in Illinois, or New York," said Adamson. "I want someone that knows us, and knows the South."
But, the board was urged to think about the issue before a decision is made.
"If you do decide you do not want to continue with Hazard, Young and Attea, you're going to have to start fresh," said Julie Lewis, the school system's general counsel. "Which means you're going to have to either put out a new RFP [Request for Proposals], or put together a search committee to find a firm for you."
The board will make a decision about retaining Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates during the Jan. 26 work session.
Some of the points Rooks made during his presentation on conducting a superintendent search included:
· State law mandates 14 days must pass between announcing the selection for a superintendent, and voting to hire that individual.
· State law also mandates the superintendent's contract cannot be less than one year, or longer than three years.
· The board must publicly announce its three finalists for the position.
· The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) requires the superintendent be the district's highest paid employee, even though state law sets the minimum school chief's salary at $27,000 per year.
· State law sets the minimum qualifications for a superintendent to be someone of good moral character; never convicted of any crime involving "moral turpitude," and who possess business and management experience that meets standards set by the Professional Standards Commission. Educationally, the person must have a master's degree in educational leadership, and hold an educational leadership certificate. Work experience includes at least three years of school experience. The board can set higher qualifications for the superintendent, if it chooses.
"This is the most important thing you're going to do while you're on the board," said Rooks, GSBA's director of legislative and superintendent search services.
Arasi told board members a superintendent's evaluation should be conducted on an annual basis, and the review should be aligned to his, or her, job duties.
The board also underwent training Saturday on how to handle school finances. That training was led by state Board of Education members Brad Bryant and Larry Winter, and officials from the Georgia Department of Education.
The financial training dealt with how the state funds education; how a district gets money from the local tax digest, and how to deal with budgets.
Bryant, who is also one of Gov. Sonny Perdue's liaisons with the Clayton school district, stressed that the board members need to understand their fiscal responsibility is to make sure children are educated, not to seek personal gain.
"It's not your money," said Bryant. "You really are making a decision to go down a path that is probably never going to put a dollar in your pocket."
The board members also learned that the budget process includes: The establishment of district-wide goals for the coming fiscal year; creation of a budget development calendar; the budget's development by school system staff; tentative adoption of the budget, which will then be advertised to the public, and final adoption of the budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
"State law requires boards to pass a budget," said John Dunn, the DOE's director of financial review. "You need to have a budget in place at the start of the fiscal year to be able to operate."