Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Search for new superintendent could take more than a year, officials say

Jim McIntyre
The Knox County Board of Education has rarely had to conduct a search to replace a superintendent.

It did so when members hired Jim McIntyre in 2008, and when members selected Charles Lindsey in 1999.

Allen Morgan was elected superintendent in 1992 and then transitioned to be the appointed superintendent in 1996 when election for that job ceased.

Now board members will once again start the search process. And, if history is any indication of the amount of time it takes to find a new school leader, officials might be waiting a good while.

When Morgan resigned in September 1998 to take a job in the private sector, his replacement – Lindsey – didn’t come on board until July the following year – about 10 months later.

After the school board ousted Lindsey in February 2007, officials had to wait almost 17 months – until July 2008 – for Jim McIntyre to start his first day on the job.

"We took our time, we didn't rush into it, and we asked for help from the community and input from the community," said Indya Kincannon, who served on the school board when members hired McIntyre. "I'm sure this board will consider all those same elements, because it is a really important decision.”

Mike Cohen, a former KCS spokesman who was involved in a similar superintendent search in the late 1990s, agreed.

"They need to do some sort of outreach to every Knox County school employee: teacher, principals, custodians, cafeteria workers,” said Cohen, who now runs his own public relations firm. “They all need to be touched and asked for input . . . . You also need to reach out to the business community, through the Chamber of Commerce or some other organization because we produce a workforce that businesses in this town depend on."


The school board will hold a special called meeting Jan. 19 to talk about a proposal floated on Monday by McIntyre that entails paying him a year’s salary to step down in early July.

McIntyre, citing a poisonous political environment agreed to resign, so that the new school board, which will take office on Sept. 1, can appoint his successor.

As it stands, the current board is expected to approve the severance plan - at least $227,000. The board at some point will then select an interim superintendent to take over on July 11 – the Monday following McIntyre’s last day on the job.

That person is expected to oversee the day-to-day operations of the school system until early September when the new board takes over, and begins steps to conduct a national search, likely with the aid of a search firm.

Once a firm is picked, it will hold public meetings, put together an application process and then narrow down candidates.

The board will then begin interviewing the finalists – probably three to five people. Board members also might travel to where the candidates work to interview peers.

In the end, it will more than likely take at least a year from the day McIntyre leaves until the day his permanent successor takes over, officials anticipate.

“It’s not a quick process,” said Cohen, who served as the KCS communications director for five years.


Morgan, a superintendent for six years, retired from the school system in early September 1998. The school board at the time hired a consultant and conducted a public poll to help find his replacement.

The board eventually selected Lindsey, who came from South Carolina where he was the director for the Dorchester School District 2 near Charleston. He started July 1, 1999.

The hiring process for McIntyre was more complicated, and the public more involved.

Here’s a snapshot at what that looked like:
  • Feb. 2007: The school board buys out Lindsey’s contract. He earned $160,300 annually, which included money for investment and a monthly car allowance. Under the agreement, the board kept him on as a consultant and paid him until his contract ended in July 2008.
  • March 2007: Then-Deputy Superintendent Roy Mullins named to serve as interim superintendent.
  • August 2007: Three organizations submitted bids to help the school board find a new superintendent.
  • Oct. 2007: The school board agreed to pay to pay Iowa-based Ray and Associates more than $30,000 to conduct the search.
  • Early Nov. 2007: The search firm suggested paying the next superintendent up to $90,000 more than Lindsey, saying that was comparable to what other school directors in similar sized school districts earn.
  • Mid-Nov. 2007: The firm held two community meetings, seeking input on what residents wanted in a new superintendent. The school board was not invited.
  • Feb. 2008: The search firm closed the application period after receiving some 40 applications. The firm whittled the list down to 12 names and turned them over to the school board.
  • Early March 2008: The school board selected five finalists from the list of 12 candidates. The board conducted interviews and further cut the list to three.
  • Early March 2008: The finalists met with the Knoxville Chamber and Great Schools Partnership.
  • Mid-March 2008: Four school board members flew to Boston, Mass. to meet with educators and business leaders to further vet McIntyre.
  • Late-March 2008: The school board in a 5-4 vote picked McIntyre over Bob Thomas, the school system’s assistant superintendent.
  • July 2008: McIntyre starts work.
"At the time, I thought it was very helpful to have an outside search firm because they were objective and could also help us do a national search and have a large pool of candidates,” Kincannon said.

She added: "It was a long process, but it's worth taking your time to get it right."

No comments: