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Douglas County School District interim Superintendent Erin Kane has announced that she will apply for the permanent superintendent position.
“Many of you have asked me if I intend to apply,” Kane wrote in a Jan. 8 email to parents. “My family and I have been carefully considering that question for the past couple of months — and I have decided to apply for the permanent position.”
The school board has decided to do a national search for the position. In late December, board members selected Ray and Associates, a firm that specializes in national school executive searches, for the task. A permanent superintendent is expected to be selected by the first week of April, according to school board President David Ray.
Kane was hired in 2016 after Elizabeth Fagen resigned to take a position in the Humble Independent School District in Texas. Many teachers and parents blamed Fagen, who was hired in 2010 by a school board majority of reform-minded members, for policies that led to an exodus of teachers and administrators over the past several years. During her tenure, the school board severed ties with the teachers' union.
In January 2016, the Douglas County School Board extended Kane's contract through the 2017-18 school year.
Hiring a permanent superintendent was a hot topic during last year's election. Four anti-reform candidates who supported a national superintendent search were elected to the school board. The outcome marked a shift in power after eight years of an often-controversial majority board.
On Dec. 4, the new school board voted 7-0 to hire a firm to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. In the decision process, the school board considered two other options: conducting a regional search in-house or hiring Kane as permanent superintendent.
“I do see that it is an investment,” board member Wendy Vogel said of a national search at the Dec. 4 meeting. “And it is something that will pay off in the long run for us and specifically for our students.”
After interviewing three national search firms at length, Ray and fellow board member Kevin Leung at a Dec. 30 special meeting recommended the school board select Ray and Associates, a search firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The school board unanimously approved the firm. Ray noted the firm's experience in Colorado — last year, Ray and Associates conducted a superintendent search for Jeffco Public Schools and it is currently leading a superintendent search for Boulder Valley School District.
“I really think as we were looking at who they actually assisted, they had more experience with larger school districts like ours,” Ray said at the meeting.
He also commented on the firm's selection process. Ray and Associates uses research-based tools and videotapes candidate interviews, expediting and making the process more efficient, as well as saving money on travel expenses, said Ray.
The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences. To fund the search, the board reprioritized its budget and discontinued contracting with a lobbyist to save money, Ray said.
"This is certainly a big decision that impacts the learning of 68,000 kids and we are taking it very seriously," said Ray. "We have a very rigorous process in place."
Ray and Associates, which has conducted roughly 2,000 searches in 42 years, will recruit candidates based on a profile created by the Douglas County School Board, with input from the community. Forums will be held across Douglas County on Jan. 23 and 24 to allow community members to voice the qualities they want in a superintendent. Locations are listed at www.dcsdk12.org/superintendent-search.
"It's also going to be a conversation around what are the things in our district that we want to preserve and what are things that we want a leader to help us with to move us forward," Ray said. "It will really be those types of questions that people can weigh in on.”
Ray and Associates will spend an agreed-upon amount of time recruiting and then will spend 10 days conducting “thorough” background investigations of each candidate, explained Bill Newman, a representative of Ray and Associates, at the special meeting.
When the search is narrowed down to three candidates, there will be more opportunities for public input. Information about special meetings and the search process will be updated on DCSD's website.
“I think engaging the public on the front end is a good idea because it gives them buy-in,” Newman said. “And we encourage them to attend meetings where it's open to the public relating to the search.”
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