School Board members meet to plan superintendent search

District staff laid out options Tuesday for finding Bernadeia JohnsonÂ’s successor

School Board members met with district staff Tuesday to begin planning the search for outgoing Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s successor.

One looming decision is whether to hire a consultant or handle the search internally. School Board members also have to decide soon whether they’ll push to hire a new superintendent by next fall or take a more measured approach that could put off selection of a permanent replacement for as much as a year.

The first meeting of the board’s Superintendent Search Committee took place as Johnson bid farewell to schools staff and community supporters in another part of district headquarters Tuesday evening. Her official last day is Saturday, and district CEO Michael Goar takes over as interim superintendent Feb. 1.

Seven of nine School Board members participated in the meeting with staff from the district’s Division of Human Capital, and they were presented three options for handling the search: hiring a consultant for “full wrap-around support”; using a search firm solely to recruit and pre-interview candidates; or handling the entire process in-house using human capital and human resources staff.

Staff recommended the first option, which they said would remove any perception of bias in the selection process. That’s critical, because the superintendent opening may attract an internal candidate, Goar, who has expressed interest in applying.

Depending on how the timeline for the superintendent search develops, district staff could be busy recruiting and hiring for other district positions — another advantage to outsourcing either part or all of the process.

If the School Board is committed to having a new superintendent by the start of next school year, they’ll have to act quickly. Likely candidates will be looking at their options now, and the pool of potential superintendents will shrink as they accept job offers in the spring and summer, staff members advised.

Acting quickly would limit opportunities for community engagement, but it would also reduce the cost of the search. Costs would increase if the board decides instead to set a deadline of fall 2016, but the district would have a longer time to identify high-quality candidates and engage in an extended community discussion about the next superintendent.

Board Member Tracine Asberry said it was better to “pump the brakes” on the search process and demonstrate to the public they’re conducting a conscientious search. Other board members said it was more important to find the best superintendent candidate than to meet a hiring deadline.

“I don’t want to give up on some talent just because we have this crazy timeline we don’t adjust,” Board Member Rebecca Gagnon said.

The public will be invited to participate in the selection process at several key points. Community input will help shape a superintendent profile, and members of the public will be invited to serve on a non-voting superintendent search advisory committee and possibly to participate in interviews with finalists.

Like meetings of the board’s standing committees, Superintendent Search Committee meetings are open to the public. The first attracted several viewers who were offered the opportunity to ask questions and provide input at the end of the meeting.

The Superintendent Search Committee plans to meet again next week and the full board is expected to discuss the search at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Interim Superintendent Michael Goar. Submitted image