Tecumseh School Board faces challenges in supt. search
Tecumseh School Board members were briefed by Richard Dunham, the Michigan Association of School Board’s (MASB) Director of Superintendent Searches at the Monday, Sept. 10, meeting. Dunham warned the trustees that the search was not going to be easy for several reasons. One of the main reasons, he said, was that there is a smaller pool of candidates to select from than in years past due to the retirement of many superintendents recently. Another hindrance is the sluggish economy.
“The current tenure for superintendents averages two years, which is the lowest in U.S. history,” Dunham told the board. “Prior to the massive retirement a few years ago, the average tenure was four years. We believe that a superintendent needs to be in a system for at least five years to make improvements. We will be looking for someone who is a good fit and long-term for Tecumseh schools.”
Dunham outlined the approximate timeline of the search. He said that the search and interviews will probably take 13 weeks from start to finish once the process is in motion. “That is a long time, but you are being very proactive and allowing yourselves plenty of time,” he said.
MASB is a member of the National Association of School Boards and Dunham said that the search will include all nationally associated members. He expects to have between 18 and 23 candidates for evaluation. “We used to get 50 or more five years ago,” he said. The goal is to have the interviewing process in motion in February with a contract signed in March.
He gave the board members some homework to do between now and the next meeting, Monday, Sept. 24. He asked each trustee to complete a survey that would detail the characteristics that they hope to see in a superintendent, personally. He also said that there will be input from the district’s teachers and administrators, as well as public forums for input from parents and community members.
MASB currently has more than 500 superintendent profiles in its database, which includes not just Michigan but the United States. The surveys completed by the board members, along with input from public meetings this fall, will help to determine which candidates most closely fit what the Tecumseh schools and community specify in characteristics and leadership styles.
“We will narrow the search to eight to ten candidates for you to seriously consider for interviews,” Dunham said. “Not all are going to be willing to sell their house and move to Tecumseh, though. There are just not a lot of people out there looking for this job.”
Dunham said that if the board is not satisfied with any of the candidates presented, “We’ll go back and do the whole thing again at no additional cost. The MASB is here until you have your superintendent.”
He said that there might be a candidate within Tecumseh Public Schools who the board might have in mind as a possibility, and if that internal candidate were selected, MASB would refund half of the $7,325 search fee.
Dunham said that the typical superintendent contract was for three years and was an “evergreen” arrangement, which means that the document is renewed every year. That type of agreement gives the superintendent a greater sense of security, but as Board President Ed Tritt and Trustee Stanley Ames pointed out, it also takes at least two years under that type of arrangement to dismiss an unsatisfactory administrator. “If you don’t have that kind of contract, it will make my job a lot harder,” said Dunham.
Board members also wanted to know about the possibility of hiring an interim superintendent, if one has not been hired when current Superintendent Mike McAran retires at the end of June 2013. Dunham said that it is possible, “but I’m 99 percent certain we will have a permanent superintendent for you.”
MASB’s search process is done almost entirely online, including the advertising. The position and the deadline for submitting resumes would be posted and board members would be able to view all applications on a secure website that requires a password to keep all applicants’ information confidential.
In previous superintendent searches for TPS, board representatives often requested a site visit when the field was reduced to two or three prime candidates. A site visit familiarizes the trustees with the environment that the prospective superintendent has created at his or her current school system and gives the trustees the opportunity to speak with school personnel and community members about the superintendent.
Dunham said that he feels site visits are of very limited value because people are not always frank about their opinions when asked by outsiders. “You often get glowing reports about the great things the candidate has done, but in my experience, if everybody likes him, there’s something wrong. They might be trying to get him out the door.”
For now, Dunham will be getting acquainted with TPS, its staff, and the community so that he will have a better idea of what general information to give prospective candidates.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said, “but we’re going to have fun, too.”
In other board action, trustees unanimously approved:
• a nursing contract for the 2012-2013 school year with ProMedica Health Care
• the purchase of new textbooks for the high school titled Living in the Environment AP
• a flexible three-month leave request for a kindergarten teacher
• a donation of $500 from the St. Elizabeth Knights of Columbus for assisting in the education of local homeless students