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Search firm outlines steps in hiring new District 161 superintendent

Those calendars and planners on sale this time of year were put into early use at Monday’s Flossmoor District 161 board of education meeting.

Board members synchronized their schedules for the next three months with representatives of BWP and Associates, the firm hired by the board to assist in finding both an interim and a full-time superintendent.

The dual searches were made necessary by the recent separation agreement between the board and Craig Doster, District 161’s superintendent for the past six years.

Board members approved the separation agreement on Nov. 8. The separation followed a mutual agreement and Doster’s resignation. Doster’s contract with the district officially ends Dec. 31.

The search for an interim superintendent appears headed for the final stretch.

“We plan to work with the board to have an appointment made by the winter break,” said Mark Friedman, president of BWP and Associates.

BWP representatives were scheduled to meet with the board during a closed-door executive session on Monday and review a list of eight candidates for the interim position, according to Friedman.

“The next step is to get the final three or four candidates to meet with the board,” Friedman said.

Hazel Crest School District 152½ Superintendent Sheila Harrison-Williams, who is working with BWP, told board members they would have a “tough time” picking a finalist from the list.

While the board is concluding its search for an interim superintendent in December, efforts at finding a permanent superintendent will be gearing up.

The board accepted BWP’s advertising plan for the full-time position, which will begin in December. BWP recommended ads be placed in publications and websites like the Illinois Job Bank and Education Week and posted through the American Association of School Administrators and National Superintendents Association.

“Posting this job in these places will reach a wide pool of candidates,” said Philip Ehrhardt, a BWP associate.

Before approving the plan, some board members questioned the consultants about whether the publications will fully communicate the vacancy to the education industry.

Friedman said using these sources will accomplish that.

“We don’t want to leave any potential candidates aside,” he said. 

As applications come in from the advertising efforts, Friedman said the board will be busy through January meeting with various district stakeholders, gathering opinions about which qualities they want in the next superintendent.  Opinions will be shared via surveys and at various meetings in January with parents, teachers, support staff, other elected officials and members of any other groups the board would like to include.

Board Secretary Lisa Harrell said she would also like to see school board candidates in the April election be included in the process.

“We want everybody’s input,” Friedman said.

The plan in January also calls for the stakeholders’ input to ultimately be used in creating a profile for the position of superintendent. The board will present the profile at its Jan. 23 committee of the whole meeting.

The hiring process will continue on Feb. 6 with a two-and-a-half hour workshop where two more steps will be taken. BWP will conduct a training session to help prepare the board for candidate interviews. Also at that meeting, BWP will present six candidates to the board during a closed session. Over the following 10 days, the board will have individual meetings with the candidates.

Later, two or three finalists will be interviewed by the board during the week of February 20.

“We should have a new superintendent after that,” Friedman said.

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