Wichita school board members launched their search for a new superintendent Thursday with a brief meeting that covered general guidelines and ended with more questions than answers.
“There are a number of things we absolutely need to talk about, and Monday night will be the start of our conversation,” board president Sheril Logan said.
The agenda for the board’s regular meeting Monday includes an item on the superintendent search. Board members are seeking a replacement for John Allison, who recently accepted the top job at Olathe public schools.
Much of Thursday’s half-hour discussion focused on whether the board should hire a professional search firm, as it did eight years ago. Allison said the cost for a consultant could range from $20,000 to $30,000.
We’re under a tight budget already, and search firms are not cheap.
Jeff Davis, Wichita school board member
“We’re under a tight budget already, and search firms are not cheap,” said board member Jeff Davis. “We need to do our due diligence the best we can because we don’t have a lot of money to spend.”
Board member Joy Eakins said the board should “start with the big picture: What do we want our school district to look like in 10 years or five years, and what kind of person needs to help us go there? And then we can work out the details of what that looks like.”
That led to a brief exchange about the merits of looking within the district for a qualified candidate rather than launching a nationwide search.
“If we decide to do an internal approach, then that eliminates the need for spending money for a search firm,” Betty Arnold said.
“We’re talking about Kansas-grown. We’re talking about individuals that public schools have produced,” she said. “To give our internal people an opportunity to step forward, to make application for us to consider them, I feel that that’s only fair.”
It’s time for us to let our own know that we believe in them. And in all honesty, we do have a number of quality people already.
Betty Arnold, Wichita school board member
Board member Lynn Rogers said he thinks “it’s doable” for the board to hire a replacement before Allison leaves in June.
Tom Powell, the board’s attorney, briefly reviewed state statutes, district policies and Kansas open meetings and open records laws as they apply to the search process.
Any new superintendent must have a district-level license from the state of Kansas and cannot be a member of the school board, Powell said.
State law requires school boards to replace departing superintendents “promptly.” That doesn’t mean the board must name a new superintendent before Allison leaves, but the board should at least name an interim superintendent by July 1 “or shortly thereafter,” Powell said.