St. John superintendent search finally gets moving

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 6, 2013

By David Vitrano

RESERVE – After being at a virtual standstill in the process of finding a replacement for former St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Courtney Millet for nearly nine months, the School Board has finally set a schedule that, if adhered to, will have a new schools chief in place by July.
Last month, after numerous debates over how to go about finding candidates for the position, the School Board agreed to hire Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to helm the search process. At a special meeting this week, representatives from the firm met with the School Board to set up a timeline and outline the process.
Ben Martindale, an Associate with the Illinois-based firm, said, by way of introduction, “We’re very happy to have the contract with your parish to find the best superintendent we can find.”
The firm has already begun advertising the opening on its website, but the search process will go far beyond collecting resumes and weeding out those who do not meet minimum qualifications.
“The key is to get as many people involved as possible,” said Martindale.
To that end the firm will conduct an online survey of the community, including those both within and outside the school system. Also, the week of April 15, Martindale and his colleague Louise Coleman will return to conduct one-on-one interviews with School Board members and have interviews with groups representing many sectors of the community, including educators, parents, clergy, business representatives and government officials.
During that time, the firm will also host community meetings on each side of the Mississippi River to include those not a part of the formal interviews.
Using the data it collects during this time, HYA will determine a leadership profile, which it will present to the board at the end of April or the beginning of May.
The leadership profile will be used to narrow the field of candidates to five or six semifinalists. Those semifinalists will then visit St. John Parish during early June for interviews with the School Board. Based on these interviews, the School Board will then narrow the field to two to three finalists.
“You will make the decision after you interview them,” said Coleman, noting the firm’s responsibility is to assist in the search but not to influence the decision of the School Board.
The finalists will return to the parish about a week later for final interviews. The format of the final interview is still in question, however.
While HYA suggested an final interview spanning several hours and including a tour of the parish, formal interviews and more informal meal-setting get-togethers, board member Rodney Nicholas though the board could use a much shorter timeframe.
“I think we can do that in an hour’s time,” said Nicholas, who questioned whether the second interview was really necessary.
Martindale, however, tried to stress the importance of the second interview — and its longer format.
“I would strongly suggest you interview your finalists a second time,” said Martindale. “It’s an opportunity for you to allow those groups you have involved to meet the candidates.”
Regardless of the format the final interview takes, using this schedule a decision should be made by July 1.
Martindale noted that all applicants, even those already within the St. John Parish school system, will have to apply through HYA.
The person selected for the job will be the first permanent superintendent for the school district since Millet stepped down July 12 of last year. Since her resignation, Herbert Smith has served as interim superintendent.