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Board aims for May 30 decision
May 10, 2013 · Ann Gruber-Miller

The Mount Vernon School Board on Thursday, May 2, approved a contract with G. Tryon and Associates to search for a new superintendent and set the timeline for the search.

The search firm has already placed ads for the position. The board is now forming focus groups of administrators, support staff, classroom teachers and parent/community members who will provide input for the selection criteria and will meet with the candidates who are brought to Mount Vernon.

The board set the search timeline to be as short as possible to allow for finding a superintendent before candidates have committed to other districts, and also to allow people in the focus groups to be able to interview candidates before leaving town on vacation after school is out. The hope is to make a decision May 28.

The board did not consider looking now for an interim superintendent.

Consultant Gaylord Tryon recommended against hiring an interim if possible, saying that having an interim "is often a year of floating, not a year of pushing ahead."

Tryon did recommend hiring an interim if no acceptable candidate is found, or if the candidate chosen is not released from his or her current contract in time to be at Mount Vernon by July 1 - after departing superintendent Pam Ewell's contract expires on June 30 - as school districts are required to have superintendents.

The board expressed the desire to involve as many constituencies from the school and community as possible in the focus groups without being unwieldy. Tryon recommended having four focus groups of 10 to 12 people each who can discuss "what's going on in Mount Vernon that applicants should know about."

He recommended one group of school administrators, one of school support staff, one of classroom teachers, and one of parents and community members, with the guideline of having only one representative per family. He said the goal should be to have balanced groups who "can represent the school district well."

The board appointed board members Paul Morf, Shannon Amundson and Tom Wieseler to pick people for the focus groups. They were to contact the administration for recommendations for the administration focus group, the building principals for recommendations for the school focus groups, and parents and community members for volunteers to be on the parent/community focus group.

Tryon emphasized it is important to have everyone who is on a focus group commit to being at every focus group meeting.

The contracted fee for Tryon's search is $9,645. The fee includes a $6,950 base fee; $695 in basic overhead expenses for phone, fax, postage, printing and food; $1,350 for the firm to be present for three interview days; and $650 for a work session to set job priorities. The district will also pay for mileage (at the federal rate) and lodging, as well as all costs for advertising, interviews, travel expenses of the candidates and site visits.

The timeline for the search process is:

• May 9 (Thursday): Individual board members and focus groups meet with the search firm to discuss desired leadership characteristics and current issues impacting the school district.

• May 14 (Tuesday): The school board meets to establish selection criteria and finalize the interview schedule. Deadline for applications to be received at G. Tryon's office. G. Tryon will then process the applications and make reference calls.

• May 24 (Friday): The school board meets in a closed session to select semifinalists.

• May 28 (Tuesday): The school board interviews the semifinalists and selects finalists. The search firm meets with the focus groups.

• May 30 (Thursday daytime): The school board and focus groups interview the finalists.

• May 30 (Thursday): The school board meets in a closed session to select the finalist. The finalist is announced. Making an offer to a candidate is subject to them being released from their current contract, passing a criminal background check, and having a current Iowa teaching license.

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