Search for new school chief starts

The search for a new superintendent to lead the Warren County School District is underway.

At a special meeting on Monday night, the school board unanimously approved a $10,950 package of services from the Pennsylvania School Board Association to aid in the recruitment of the next schools chief.

Two potential service packages were presented to the board by Tom Templeton, assistant executive director for school board and management services at PSBA.

The administrative option, at a cost of $5,500, would provide the “logistics” of the search “doing what we need to get the search off and running.” Under that plan, PSBA would advertise nationally, help the board select candidates for interview and train the board on how to conduct interviews. The board would then conduct the interviews on its own with PSBA re-entering the picture when candidates have been selected in order to check references.

The executive search option, which costs $10,950, provides all of the functions of the administrative option with several key additions. Templeton explained that PSBA representatives, in this proposal, would be on-site with the district through the interview process. They will also assist the district in compliance with including superintendent goals in the contract, a relatively new mandate from the state.

“We assist you with the superintendent’s evaluation process,” Templeton said. “We are there providing you with more consultative judgment. Do they bring those executive leadership skills necessary to lead an organization? They are both pretty comprehensive packages in terms of how we execute the search.”

Given that the board proceeded through this process just two years ago, Templeton was optimistic that the district could complete the process successfully with just the administrative option.

However, he noted that hiring a superintendent is not just filling a position. The goal is to do “more than trying to hire a superintendent. What they’re attempting to do is secure a candidate who you believe over the long haul can be the tenth member of your team,” allowing the board to be a “stronger, more effective governing team.”

He stressed that educational expertise is just part of the qualification, noting that a quality search is “not specifically looking for an educational leader (but is) looking for an organizational leader with an education component. That is a critical difference.”

Board President Arthur Stewart explained that the board does not traditionally set goals for the superintendent but rather sets goals for the district in conjunction with administration, which is “not something that has ever been built into the contract.” Templeton said that, in the executive option, PSBA staff would assist in the development of those goals.

“Hiring a superintendent is just about the most important decision” a board will make, said board member Dr. Paul Yourchisin. “I don’t want to see the district low ball. The executive search is a little more expensive but well worth it.”

Board member John Grant noted that utilizing local legal counsel to craft the goals for the contract would come at considerable cost. “The role that PSBA plays diminishes what we would have spent on a labor attorney. I really think we need the guidance on these new rules,” he said.

Stewart concurred, adding that he “also likes having them on-site through the entire process.”

Board vice president Donna Zariczny made a motion to utilize the executive search option.

As the district’s representative on the Intermediate Unit board, “We just went through our search program at the IU 5 with PSBA with the executive search program. Having them on-site was instrumental on providing insight. I think having PSBA on-site will be valuable to what we are doing,” Zariczny said.

Business Manager Jim Grosch said after the meeting that there is a line item in the budget for superintendent search services, but that a transfer of funds to the account will be required because the district did not foresee the vacancy.

During committee meetings held later in the evening, the Physical Plant and Facilities Committee forwarded a request to the full board to consider the closure of South Street Early Learning Center at the March 11 board meeting. In spite of vocal opposition from several individuals who claimed that moving students to Warren Area Elementary Center would further crowd an over-crowded school, administration from both schools presented what they argue is a feasible plan to merge the entities and close South Street.

“This wasn’t arbitrary,” Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “The reason why, this was in the scope of the (long-range facilities) plan…. It is a doable plan, it’s very doable.”