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State board visits to kick off quest for new Halifax superintendent

Halifax County School Board members met with Executive Director Barbara Coyle and Assistant Executive Director Gina Patterson of the Virginia School Board Association on Tuesday morning to discuss procedures for the ongoing superintendent search.

A public hearing has been set for Monday, Feb. 13, to receive comments from the community on what they are looking for in their next school superintendent.

At the Feb. 13 meeting, surveys to be distributed to the community, parents and staff members also will be due.

With ED-2 representative and Chairman Karen Hopkins absent from the meeting, ED-3 trustee and Vice-Chairman Kimberly Farson led the meeting.

Patterson expressed appreciation for the school board’s decision to use the VSBA’s services.

“Today we are going to give you as much information as possible. We have a sample timeline, and we will set some dates before you leave today,” she added.

According to Patterson, school board members may consider four options when hiring a superintendent that states the applicant holds a superintendent’s license which would put them on the eligibility list or make them eligible to be placed on the list.

The four options were contained in a handbook that she distributed to each board member instructing them they had “homework” to be completed before their next meeting.

The handbook included all the information on superintendent search procedures including the major responsibilities, samples of contracts, qualifications and how to involve the community in the search process.

“You all are well ahead of the game,” said Patterson.

“There are two ways you can involve the community, a public hearing where you as a board are just observers and a survey for the community that is available to the community, parents and staff members.”

She cautioned board members if they chose the survey route, they could not disregard suggestions contained in the surveys.

Hard copies of the survey need to be made available for the community as well as a link to the website, so the surveys are easily accessible for everyone.

“If you’re asking VSBA’s opinion, you can’t go wrong by including the community’s input,” said Patterson.

Board members then scheduled a public hearing for their next regular board meeting on Feb. 13, which also will be the deadline for the surveys.

Included in the surveys are questions to determine the community’s expectations for the next school superintendent.

Applications will be accepted from Feb. 20 through March 23.

Board members will schedule a meeting sometime after receiving the applications before meeting with the state school board association again on April 4.

Interviews are expected to be conducted between April and May with the expected announcement of the next superintendent slated for May or June at the latest.

All of these dates are tentative at this time, school board members agreed.

Patterson informed board members if they knew of any current employees who hold a superintendent’s license, it is courtesy to automatically send a letter to them inviting them to apply for the position and offer them interviews first.

“I believe we have four or five employees who hold a superintendent’s license,” said Stapleton.

Patterson then discussed School Board Clerk Robin Mahan’s duties during this process.

“She will establish a P.O. box, take survey results that have been tallied, take qualifications and list them on the position announcement. Send each week as on page 99 in the book, the name of the applicant, degrees, information and references just to keep an update on them,” said Patterson.

ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry and Farson shared some of the concerns they feel the board may encounter during its search.

“What if we simply haven’t had any good applicants?” questioned Terry.

“What if we really like applicant A and really like applicant B, and applicant A gets on the job for two months and decides this really isn’t the place for them. Do we have to start the whole process over?” asked Farson.

“Good candidates are going to do their homework on you all as well, location, salary, they are all factors. They are going to see if you guys work together,” added Patterson.

“We could get 50 applicants, and they may not be qualified, and if they are not, we are going to tell you to do it again (re-advertise),” she added.

“I think we’re a board that is going to work very closely (together),” added ED-5 trustee Roger Long.

According to Patterson, the average contract held by a school superintendent is three years, although the minimum is two, and the maximum is four years.

The survey will be available online by Friday, school officials said, and hard copies will be available in every school, each public library and at the central office.

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The public hearing will be held Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Mary Bethune Office Complex.