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Guest column

Now is not the time to select a new Douglas County School District superintendent

Posted

One of the chief responsibilities of a school board is the selection of a district superintendent. Choosing the right person will attract talented teachers to the district, capitalize on operational strengths and challenge all students to reach their highest academic potential. 

The timing of that selection is equally important. Erin Kane is currently serving on an interim superintendent contract for the Douglas County School District that is scheduled to end on Sept. 1 of this year. Additionally, four of the seven school board seats are up for election in 10 months. For these reasons, beginning the search for a new superintendent at this time isn't fair, prudent or judicious.

Selection of a new leader a few months ahead of an election isn't fair to the newly elected board who will assume responsibility following the November 2017 election. The new board should be given an opportunity to shape the trajectory of the district.  That may result in a permanent contract for Ms. Kane or it may not, but the voters should have their voices heard. Starting a wide search now is also unfair to teachers and principals who deserve to know who will be evaluating their performance and casting a vision for the district.  

Moreover, a search for a new superintendent isn't prudent.  Douglas County has 87 schools and more than 67,000 students. Large organizations take time to integrate cultural change and adopt new habits. Ms. Kane is the third person to assume the responsibility of superintendent over the last year. Signaling a leadership change after Ms. Kane is just four months into the job is not in the best interest of the district. 

The district needs certainty, stability and predictability.

Lastly, changing superintendents now isn't judicious because it will be difficult to attract top talent.  In general, school district hiring cycles aren't conducive to the timeline the board would have to consider.  Besides, what superintendent would be interested in accepting a major position a few months ahead of a substantial election that could change his or her entire direction in that role? Or worse, that could see him or her losing that position?

Douglas County students, parents and staff deserve consistency and a steady hand at the wheel. Ms. Kane has righted a turbulent ship in a short period of time. 

At the board's Jan. 17 meeting, we will have an opportunity to extend her interim contract through the next school year. This is a common-sense step that demands the support of the board.   

Steven Peck serves as the director for District E on the Douglas County School District Board of Education.

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