I really appreciate seeing the flurry of articles on the MCSD superintendent search in the Ledger-Enquirer beginning on Jan. 6. While visiting in the Atlanta area, I happened to see a replay of the Clayton County Public Schools board meeting of Dec. 3, 2012. Clayton County Public Schools board is in the same place as the Muscogee County School District board. Clayton has an interim superintendent, an embattled school board and is starting a search for a new superintendent after the previous superintendent left under a cloud of problems with the board. However, the Clayton County Public Schools board is conducting deliberations about their superintendent search out in the open.
A question was raised at the Clayton County board meeting over whether to hire a search firm or use the legal counsel on retainer to conduct the superintendent search. One school board member openly objected to the idea of using a search firm by saying she was convinced that "search firms have a stable of candidates that they simply recycle whenever they are hired to conduct a search." That could certainly explain why candidates were submitted to the MCSD board who did not meet the criteria set by the board that was in place until Dec. 10.
I'm sad to say it, Mr. Hyatt. However, not only are there no semi-finalists in the MCSD superintendent search, there are no viable candidates. The process is not stalled, Mr. Rice. The ball was dropped by the search firm, McPherson and Jacobson LLC of Omaha Nebraska. Not a surprise that McPherson and Jacobson "changed its public availability." They did not meet the time line laid out at the community meeting on the superintendent search they facilitated on Sept. 18, 2012.
At that meeting I asked the question about the time line for completing the search. I was
stunned to hear that we would know the new superintendent before school closed for the holiday break in December. The time line struck me as overly ambitious. Now that I hear search firms possibly have a "stable of candidates," it explains why the search firm thought it could deliver. The question is why the MCSD board appears to have "gone along with" the search firm. Even knowing what the MCSD board wanted, McPherson and Jacobson still submitted candidates who did not meet the criteria set by the board. McPherson and Jacobson are done.
Board members need to go on record that the search by McPherson and Jacobson didn't work and that they are starting over. The MCSD board could learn a lot about transparency from the Clayton County Public Schools board. As I watched their deliberations replayed from their Dec. 3 meeting, I learned they made a conscious decision not to start the search for a new superintendent until their newly elected board members were seated. Why didn't the MCSD board do what Clayton County decided to do? It should've been obvious as early as October that McPherson and Jacobson could not deliver. Certainly after the Dec. 5 interviews MCSD board members knew there would be no vote on a new superintendent before the board changed.
I would urge MCSD board members to watch the Dec. 3 deliberations of the Clayton County Public Schools board. It was refreshing to watch the interim superintendent present her recommendations for school administrators and receive unanimous support. And Clayton County has an equally (if not more so) contentious school board. They speak frankly and openly about their disagreements. However, they conducted business at that meeting in a way that was respectful and effective. A motion was adopted to place their superintendent search process on their scheduled Jan. 7 work session.
I trust the MCSD board will allow for public comment at its Jan. 14 work session. I urge the community to be more engaged in the process and give up the culture of living in a "jaded" community. We must move beyond pontificating in the barber shops, beauty shops and other community settings and take a more active role in searching for a new superintendent.
For my part, I will reach out to my contacts in Durham, Cleveland, Boston and other large school districts to let them know what a wonderful opportunity exists in Columbus, Ga., to work with a capable and visionary staff in a palatial central office.
MCSD deserves a competent superintendent willing to commit to the 5-year strategic plan. I trust the school board will work on a new time line that allows the successful candidate to move to Columbus in time to start work this summer.
Theresa El-Amin, regional project director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network.