The Austin ISD board of trustees spent time during a meeting March 9 discussing how open the superintendent search should be.

"We're getting advice from our search firm that the more open your search is, the more narrow your field of applicants may be," District 5 Trustee Lynn Boswell said during a meeting March 9. "So we're trying to find that sweet spot for our community and trying to find that balance between what Texas traditionally does or something that's very open, or something that's in between."

Since March 1, the search firm hired by AISD—GR Recruiting—has been accepting responses to a community survey asking what qualities the community wants to see in the next superintendent. Surveys can be taken online and are due no later than March 15. Along with the qualities, there has been discussion on how transparent the search will be—with some wanting a completely open search and others wanting a confidential search.

"A lot of people have expressed wanting not so much the Florida model, where everyone who applies is publicized. ... But I did hear a lot of desire to have a difference in the ending of the process. How many of the finalists are named and what the engagement is between that group. Personally, that's where I'm leaning," District 6 Trustee Andrew Gonzales said.

District 7 Trustee David Kauffman said, from his point of view, there's little interest in having a closed search until the end and a lot of weariness about having it open from the beginning, He said, as a result, he's leaning toward having a handful of finalists made public toward the end of the search.

"I've heard from people who have concerns about having the last [handful of] finalists announced," District 4 Trustee Kathryn Whitley Chu said. "A lot of people were unhappy with the process last time and unhappy with the results. I think it would not only benefit the community but also the future superintendent to already have built a relationship with our community by the time they are offered the position."

District 1 Trustee Candace Hunter disagreed, saying she is leaning toward having a more open search.

"We may get a smaller pick, but I want somebody who is willing to take a risk and someone who is willing to say 'I'm willing to do the work,'" Hunter said.

District 2 Trustee Ofelia Zapata said she finds it interesting that there are so many people who want an open search and others who want a closed search.

"It is interesting that there are people who are on both sides," Zapata said. "That's why it is so important to hear from as many people as possible to help steer us the right way."

Kevin Foster, District 3 trustee and vice president, said he wants the board to keep in mind any unintended consequences that may come with the board's decision.

"I think this is very complex, and wherever you land on this, we all want somebody who is the best fit for AISD," said Arati Singh, at-large Position 9 trustee and board president. "Upon reflection, I think what's more important—or as important—is how well the board works with the superintendent that we hire. I worry a little about the potential unintended consequences of having a search that's too open."

Boswell concluded the discussion saying she wants more time to explore the middle ground between an open and closed search.

"As we get more open, the disruption to the community is something we need to be conscious of," she said. "What our openness means for other communities is something we should keep in mind."