Ar­du­ous job ahead for CCSD

Su­per­in­ten­dent search es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing due to var­i­ous fac­tors

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NEVADA - By Amelia Pak-har­vey Las Ve­gas Re­view-journal

The next su­per­in­ten­dent of the Clark County School Dis­trict faces a hard job, but first the School Board must land a top-notch can­di­date in what prom­ises to be a tough competition.

The hunt for the next leader of the na­tion’s fifth-big­gest school dis­trict has barely be­gun, but ex­perts warn that find­ing a qual­i­fied su­per­in­ten­dent is grow­ing more chal­leng­ing for a num­ber of rea­sons, in­clud­ing a shrink­ing ap­pli­cant pool. And the bat­tle to at­tract those can­di­dates is of­ten com­pet­i­tive.

“It’s a tough job, and so boards are con­stantly on the look­out for in­di­vid­u­als with ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Dan Domenech, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of School Ad­min­is­tra­tors. “But here again, the in­di­vid­u­als with ex­pe­ri­ence that are do­ing a good job are in jobs and not nec­es­sar­ily look­ing to move.”

The con­fi­den­tial­ity prob­lem

The School Board will in­ter­view four search firms on Nov. 30 be­fore pick­ing one to find a suc­ces­sor to Su­per­in­ten­dent Pat Sko­rkowsky, who will re­tire next year.

The cho­sen firm will bring a small num­ber of fi­nal­ists to be in­ter­viewed pub­licly be­fore the board.

That process also can de­ter some of the best-qual­i­fied can­di­dates from ap­ply­ing, ex­perts say.

“The ma­jor­ity of the can­di­dates that they would want, again be­cause they would be look­ing for some­one who is a sit­ting, ex­pe­ri­enced su­per­in­ten­dent, will not chance a pub­lic meet­ing where the in­for­ma­tion of the can­di­date be­comes pub­lic,” Domenech said.

En­cour­ag­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity, though, can fly in the face of the pub­lic meet­ings law that school boards are of­ten re­quired to up­hold.

Trustee Chris Gar­vey, who has met with con­stituents on the search, said one of their big­gest con­cerns is hav­ing an open process.

“They want to make sure that this is a trans­par­ent process and that the in­di­vid­u­als that are be­ing con­sid­ered are put out there so that the


pub­lic also has a chance to look at who they are,” she said at a board meet­ing last week.

A tougher en­vi­ron­ment

De­bra Hill re­mem­bers that when she be­gan con­duct­ing su­per­in­ten­dent searches about 17 years ago, she would of­ten have over 100 ap­pli­cants for a job.

Hill, a for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent in Illi­nois and cur­rent man­ag­ing part­ner at na­tional ed­u­ca­tion search firm BWP and As­so­ciates, now sees more like 40 to 50.

“Par­tic­u­larly for ur­ban dis­tricts, that’s a chal­lenge in terms of hav­ing peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence in ur­ban ar­eas who are ap­ply­ing and mov­ing to an­other dis­trict,” she said. “If you get 30 to 40, you feel like you’ve made some head­way.”

That shrink­age of the ap­pli­cant pool is largely at­trib­ut­able to the dif­fi­culty of an ur­ban su­per­in­ten­dency, Hill said.

“There was a point in time when su­per­in­ten­dents just had to man­age,” she said. “Now … you have to be very fi­nan­cially as­tute, you have to be very po­lit­i­cally as­tute, you have to have great com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. You have to know cur­ricu­lum and in­struc­tion, you need to know what’s the lat­est and what’s hap­pen­ing in terms of stu­dent learn­ing.”

Hill said her firm is not com­pet­ing for the Clark County con­tract.

Domenech agrees that the num­ber of qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants is di­min­ished.

As­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dents — likely aspir­ing ap­pli­cants — of­ten no longer feel that the salary in­crease from their cur­rent post is suf­fi­cient given the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the new job, he said. Plus, sit­ting su­per­in­ten­dents are afraid of jeop­ar­diz­ing their cur­rent job if they ap­ply and their name be­comes pub­lic.

Board Pres­i­dent Deanna Wright be­lieves the job in Clark County is tougher to­day than it was 10 years ago, par­tic­u­larly be­cause the su­per­in­ten­dent has “to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­body.”

But she’s con­fi­dent that the School

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