School Board Lays Out Expectations for Covington Superintendent Search
The Covington Board of Education will use the services of the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) in its search for a new superintendent for Covington Independent Public Schools.
Lynda Jackson, superintendent since 2008, announced her retirement in December. Jackson's last day is June 30.
"Our job is not to recommend or find a superintendent but to lead you to the right fit for Covington schools," said Mike Oder of the KSBA, who will work closely with the school board in its superintendent search. Oder spoke at Thursday night's board meeting and requested that a decision be made on whether to use KSBA in the search within two weeks. Because the next board meeting would fall outside that timeline, the board held a special meeting Saturday morning to approve the contract, worth $8,500.
"This is a turn-key operation," Oder said. "We're here from the beginning till you get a name on the contract."
During preliminary discussion about whether to use KSBA Thursday, board attorney Mary Ann Stewart and Jackson referenced that KSBA is the only agency that works with school boards in superintendent searches. The Covington Board of Education used a different firm last time around, but that firm no longer exists.
Boards also have the option of handling the search on their own, but Jackson explained that while that decision would save the $8,500, it could weaken the confidentiality of the search.
"We're an impartial third party," Oder said. "Confidentiality is a key component. This is like Las Vegas. What goes on here, stays here."
Oder explained that while the school board will serve as the official search committee, a screening committee will be assembled to scrutinize the applicants. That committee is to consist of one parent, two teachers, a classified employee, one board member, and a principal. At least one member of the committee must be a minority and if one is not included in the initial grouping of six, a seventh will be added in the form of a minority parent.
Several other local districts who have gone through a search for a new superintendent in recent years have utilized the services of KSBA, including Dayton Independent Schools which hired Jay Brewer last spring. Dayton board member Jeff Volter attended Thursday's meeting in Covington.
"There's a lot of pressure on the screening committee. There's a lot of homework," said Volter, who served on Dayton's screening committee. "The work isn't at the meetings but during the time between meetings."
According to Kentucky state law, a new superintendent takes office on July 1 after the appointment is made for a term that would last no more than four years before an extension is granted. The school board sets the salary for the superintendent, which is currently $120,000 in Covington, and KSBA will assist in the negotiations of the contract. Superintendents must be certified by the Education Professional Standards Board.
New board sets goals for new superintendent search
Since December, the Covington Board of Education has added three new members to its five-person ranks, one by appointment and two by election. Four of them voted unanimously Saturday to approve the contract with KSBA (a fifth member, Joyce Baker, elected in November and seated in January, was away at a conference).
Each spoke with The River City News about what they are looking for in a replacement for Jackson.
Someone who's been a superintendent in an urban district in Kentucky with success at reforming inner-city schools, is on the wish list of new board member Kerry Holleran. "What I'm concerned about, is that person a myth? That's what we'll find out," Holleran said. "I know how much professional development (Covington staff) do about urban districts. I see how different it is from a rural or suburban district."
Holleran added that that does not disqualify a rural or suburban superintendent from possibly having her support.
The board has the option of limiting the search within Kentucky or expanding it nationally. That decision will be made in the coming weeks.
"There's quite a few superintendents retiring. The field is open," said Glenda Huff, who was reelected to her fourth four-year term in November. Whether a superintendent would make more or less than what Jackson is paid, is also unclear.
"I would love to keep (Jackson) on," Huff said. "In my mind she's the top, so I can't see me agreeing to pay them more than we pay her." Huff also wanted to make it clear that the board has had no conversations about the search and have not yet identified any candidates. "We have not chosen anyone. We've not even tossed any names around."
For board chair Jerry Avery, a plan to increase the district's test scores which ranked it at the bottom in Kentucky last year, is high on his list of priorities. "What are their plans to turn these test scores around, because it's a serious issue," he said. "And we have to turn it around. Do they have any idea how they will address it?"
"We do recognize the importance of this decision," said board member Julie Geisen Scheper, appointed in December to fill a vacancy on the board. "A lot of time, thought, and work is going to go into it and we are ready to do it."
"I can't think of anything more important that we'll do and we've got to get it right," Holleran said.
"Besides setting the budget, it's the most important thing we do," Huff said. "I think there are a lot of factors in this. We need to listen to our employees to see what kind of leader they want. They're the ones who will be working under this person."
Also, "I don't want to reinvent the wheel. We're doing some great things in Covington."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Covington Board of Education building/RCN file