Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 12, 2013

Board meets with superintendent search firm

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — Final interviews for the job of Knoxville Schools' Superintendent are scheduled to take place Jan. 27, with two candidates to be interviewed all day (one each day) on Jan. 29-30. 

As we've reported, Superintendent Randy Flack is retiring at the end of this school year, after over 20 years of service to the district. Search from G. Tryon and Associates will be paid up to $9,720 to assist the board in a search for his replacement. 

The Knoxville School Board met with representatives from G. Tryon and Associates search firm Wednesday night. The firm has conducted meetings with four separate focus groups to gauge which traits the community is looking for in a new superintendent. Groups include one for the board, parents, support staff, administrators and teachers. 

Those involved were asked to assign a numerical value to 35 traits, based upon the level of importance. (See leadership survey attachment.) This information was used to develop a leadership profile to be used during the search process. 

The focus groups identified visibility, accessibility and approachability as their highest expectations from a new superintendent. Morals, honesty, integrity were closely behind. Headings on the leadership profile include high expectations and a focus on student achievement, an effective, visionary leader, building trust and positive relationships, effective communication, fiscal responsibility and student advocacy.

Experience as a superintendent is something the board chose to leave off of the profile. They were told that half of the potential applicants would be lost if experience was a requirement. Board member Andrew Schmidt said he is more interested in someone who has displayed leadership than someone who just has experience. Board member Mike Moats added that experience may be a factor when determining the final few candidates. 

"I think Andrew summed it up best," Board Vice President Mike Helle said. 

Strengths and weaknesses about the school district and the community of Knoxville overall were also identified. The search firm representatives felt that the focus groups were upbeat about the district and community. They believe this positivity will help attract quality applicants to Knoxville. 

Board members were asked to submit approximately seven more interview questions to the search firm. Preliminary interviews will be conducted and five semifinalists will be invited to Knoxville for interviews with the board on Jan. 27, 2014. From that pool, two finalists will be selected, with one returning for all-day interviews with the focus groups on Jan. 29, and the other on Jan. 30. 

The day for each finalist will end with an evening interview with the board. The board has the option of making the interview a public forum, though the search firm says that "99 percent" of the districts it has assisted holds these interviews in closed session. 

The possibility of having a reception for the public to meet the finalists was discussed, but the board seemed to prefer to have only invited guests meet with the finalists during the interview days, as opposed to any kind of public forum. 

"I don't know that I'm sold on an open reception," Moats said. Schmidt agreed that he did not want input from a lot of people. 

The search firm raised concern in regard to having the candidates present at any time in Knoxville, without the board being present. These representatives agreed that a select few from the community, such as the mayor and city manager, could be invited to lunch or another time of the day. 

No final actions were taken regarding the interview days. 

From there, the board discussed the pay range it would consider paying. Out of respect to the board's wishes and the search firm's advice to the board, the Journal-Express will not disclose the range. We have attached a document provided to the board, from the search firm, showing where Knoxville's superintendent pay ranks among other districts in Iowa.