Board President Laura DuPont said at the start of the July 22 special meeting that the board has no succession plan in place but is open to learning what search options are available.
The search can be complex and present unexpected challenges, said Cathy Mincberg, president of the Houston-based Center for Reform of School Systems, but it ultimately comes down to finding the candidate who can form a good relationship with the board and also fit into the community.
“It’s getting that match between who you are and your community that’s really important,” she said, “[but] there's a lot of devil in those details.”
The board shared their thoughts on what they considered to be some of CCISD’s attractive qualities, including the school’s diversity in programming and population; learning opportunities available for students through the wide talent pool of community members, especially given the district’s proximity to NASA; a commitment to professional learning; and a solid fiscal position through multiple audits. Trustees did, however, note the district will be facing state budget cuts in the coming year as a result of the pandemic.
The next superintendent would begin in January, with Smith’s last day being Dec. 31. Trustees said they are not yet sure if they want Smith’s time as superintendent to overlap with that of his successor; if this were the case, Smith could help transition the next superintendent.
Trustees settled on using a search firm to help with the process as well as on appointing a separate party to act as oversight and hold the firm accountable.
Search firms can be regional or national, Mincberg said, and she encouraged trustees to look for firms that have experience finding candidates in regions from which the board would like to hire.
The district will put out requests for search firm proposals and aim to receive at least half a dozen, trustees said. Requests will be received by mid-August, giving the board the third week of August to evaluate proposals and the fourth week to vote on a firm.
A search firm costs anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 once hired, Mincberg said during the meeting. Typically, the firm guarantees their chosen candidate will stay for at least a year, and if this does not happen, they re-conduct the search for free.
Trustee Scott Bowen said not only will the pandemic affect the district’s finances, it will also affect its educational philosophy. COVID-19 has illustrated the need to give students of all ages the opportunity to explore their capabilities in hands-on ways that do not involve spending time at a desk, he said.
As such, Bowen said the superintendent search process should be comprehensive and far-reaching to keep up with what could be a changing educational environment.
“I want this to be as open and competitive as it can be,” he said. “We might be surprised at what turns up is kind of what I’m hoping for.”