D65 sets process for superintendent searches


The Evanston School District 65 School Board established the process for choosing interim superintendents for the coming year and a permanent superintendent in a special meeting Thursday afternoon.

Mark Friedman, president of BWP & Associates, the search firm selected by the board last month, explained that most people interested in serving as interim superintendent are retired superintendents and, to keep their pensions, they may only work six hours a day for a maximum of 120 days per year.

He said that one person would only be in the office two days per week for the year and recommended that the board select two people to serve in the interim role who would share a schedule and be available every day to support the administration. 

He estimated the cost at $1,000 to $1,200 per day or about $200,000 for the year but said that the district would not be providing health benefits, pension payments and other fringe benefits.

“We need someone representing the office of superintendent every day,” said Board member Joseph Hailpern.

Stacy Beardsley, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and acting interim superintendent, said there are lots of demands in the district and “it’s critical to respond to those demands immediately.”

Friedman said that, given the tight timeline for hiring an interim superintendent, BWP had already talked with a half dozen people they thought would be suitable and would work together well in a shared role.

“Whoever steps in here needs to have experience with social justice and racial equity,” said Anya Tanyavutti, vice president of the board. “Experience alone is not enough.”

Friedman said someone in the interim role does not reset the direction of the district but “keeps things going that are already underway.”

“We want an interim superintendent committed to moving us forward on racial equity goals,” said Sunith Kartha, president of the board. 

“An interim is not a change agent, but we’re in the middle of change,” said Tanyavutti. “The district professionals have been charged with change. But we want someone who is not uncomfortable with having conversations about race. We don’t want to go backward.”

“We can only pick from retired superintendents,” said Friedman. “Their job is to take direction from the board.” 

“We’re talking in a vacuum,” said Debra Hill, BWP managing director. “You can ask questions of specific applicants to determine if they have the cultural values you’re looking for.”

“This is not just a task, it’s a mindset,” said board member Candance Chow. “They need to partner with the cabinet who is leading the work.”

The board agreed to hire two interim superintendents who would share the responsibility for the 2019-20 school year. Aiming for a start day of Aug. 19, the board will interview six candidates during the week of August 5 and make a decision in closed session. 

Hill noted that a summary of the qualifications of the individuals interviewed and the questions asked could be made available to the community after the selections are made. 

Turning to the search for a permanent superintendent, Hill reviewed a planning document, including communication strategies, community involvement, advertising and a detailed work plan.

Hill said the process would be transparent except for candidate information until the finalists have been determined. She also noted that the community provides feedback but does not vote on the superintendent. “It’s the board’s job to decide.”

BWP and the board established a schedule:

  • July-September — advertising and recruiting
  • September — community survey, focus groups and one-on-one interviews to determine characteristics desired in the new superintendent
  • October 6 — application deadline
  • November — interviews with six candidates and selection of finalists
  • December — Day in the District, including community meeting, for up to three candidates
  • December — Board selects final candidate and negotiates contract
  • January — Final vote and announcement of new superintendent

Hill said BWP would provide guidance for the board throughout the process and would press the board to select a new superintendent in a unanimous vote.

Related story

D65 selects superintendent search firm (6/18/19)

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