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Covington Superintendent Search Begins in Earnest

The Covington Board of Education have officially begun their search for a new superintendent that will replace the retiring Lynda Jackson as leader of Covington Independent Public Schools.

The board met Monday in a special meeting to lay out the language for the job posting and to set a timeline of events that will lead to the naming of a new superintendent. The Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) will lead the search after being awarded the $8,500 contract to help find the district's next leader.

While board members have already laid out their general expectations for a new superintendent, Monday's meeting was full of more specific desires. The board wants a resume that includes a record of increased student achievement, administrative experience, a respect for diversity, fiscal responsibility, familiarity with urban education, and a knowledge of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and the more current term, core content, as it relates to Kentucky classrooms.

The KERA expectation may limit applications to those from Kentucky, but Mike Oder of the KSBA explained that in the age of the internet, all superintendent searches are national. 

Some on the board want the next superintendent to live in the Covington school district, as Jackson does currently. "I would want them to live in my district," said board chairman Jerry Avery. "If you want to be a part of it, invest in it." Oder explained that applicants cannot be told to move to Covington, but a residency clause could be added to the contract and finalists would be informed of that.

Board attorney Mary Ann Stewart said that clause has appeared in the past. "It happened before with a superintendent but he never moved to the district and the board was divided over it," Stewart said. "That's my only caution. You can put it in there, but will you enforce it?"

Board members Joyce Baker and Julie Geisen Scheper also see value in a new superintendent living within the district but disagreed that it should be a requirement. "I think they need a vested involvement in the community," Baker said, "but I don't think it should be an absolute done-deal to make that a requirement."

"I think you can be very active and involved in the community without living in Covington," Scheper said. "Sometimes you need to be able to get away. You need to be able to go to the grocery without running into people." Jackson's predecessor, Jack Moreland, did not live in the district but was very active in the community, Stewart said.

"I think we should impress upon them that we want them to live in Covington," said board member Kerry Holleran, adding that she would be open to accepting a reason that the superintendent would not want to move, such as Scheper's suggestion that the next leader may be from the immediate surrounding area and already close by.

Board member Glenda Huff read off some of her personal wishes for the next superintendent, including an ability to face criticism. "They're going to have to have backbone and be able to take criticism from the community, the uneducated community," said Huff.

"You're talking about leadership," said Oder.

Oder will oversee the search committee that will be in place this week and will consist of one parent, two teachers, a classified employee, a principal, and a board member (each elected by their respective organization within the district). At least one member must be a minority, a criterion fulfilled by board member Jerry Avery, an African-American, selected by his fellow board members to serve on the committee.

Confidentiality in superintendent searches is a key component of the process. "Confidentiality is so important," said Huff, who has served on the board during previous searches. "Everyone chosen for that committee has got to be able to keep their mouths shut."

"Everything we do (as a search committee) is in closed session," Oder said, "and by law you can't talk about anything that happens in closed session. I don't want to jinx myself but we've had pretty good luck with confidentiality."

The superintendent job will be advertised for the first time on Friday with applications being accepted for six weeks and closing on March 18. Those applications will be sent to the KSBA in Frankfort and reviewed by the search committee in Covington. That committee will then recommend approximately five finalists to the school board, though the board can still hire from any of the applicants. The finalists will be brought in for interviews with the school board.

A new superintendent is expected to be named near April 25.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Special school board meeting Monday with Mike Oder of KSBA/RCN