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Local School Districts Still Searching for New Leaders
Two major central Illinois school districts are without a permanent superintendent. Decatur and Springfield school boards will meet Monday night to discuss the search process. Both districts decided to shell out some extra cash to hire a search firm.
Board members from District 186 and District 61 say hiring a search firm is absolutely necessary to turn up the right candidate. The search process for both districts is pretty similar as well. The districts are currently collecting community input on what the district needs, and then letting the search firms narrow down candidates from a nationwide search. However, it will still be months before the positions are filled.
Springfield has been without a permanent superintendent since last spring. The school board's liaison to the search firm, Scott McFarland, said since that time, the district has had the chance to isolate some qualities the new district leader will need.
"Personally for me I'm looking for someone with experience in an urban setting with a diverse group of population, and someone who can handle the fiscal issues we're dealing with now with the state and with the local level, and someone who can have a vision for both the district and the city moving forward," McFarland said.
For Decatur's board president, Brian Hodges, the search process is just starting.
"We're going to sit down and talk about our planning session, which will be our first real meeting together as a board to meet with our new search firm," Hodges said of Monday night's board meeting.
Both districts cite the same reasons for the decision to work with a search firm. They want the widest variety of candidates to make it easier to find the one that's the most qualified for their individual district. Without outside assistance, the districts are qualified to advertise the job on a national level. Though after all the work, they may still hire locally.
"We want to find the best possible person," Hodges said. "That may be wherever. It might be here. It might be somebody on the east or west coast. We really don't know."
That's despite price tags in the tens of thousands--about $17,000 for Decatur Public Schools, It could be next summer before new superintendents start their jobs. McFarland still believes the lack of permanent leadership could have been avoided.
"I think this is a normal occurrence in terms of length," McFarland said. "I personally wish that we wouldn't have to be searching for somebody right now. I think we should have allowed the last contract to go through."
Springfield will likely have to choose a new interim superintendent before the search is over. McFarland said the search caught them a little off guard because the district wasn't planning to have to start the process for another year.