With Jeffco Schools Superintendent Jason Glass’ announcement that he’s leaving to become Kentucky’s education commissioner, the school board finds itself in the position of hiring a new superintendent for the third time in six years. As each of the last two processes were severely flawed, let’s do things differently this time.
First and foremost, we should begin this process with a belief and understanding that the superintendent of Jeffco schools is a great job in a great district with great kids. We should move forward with the belief and understanding that it’s the school board’s responsibility to find us a superintendent who is committed to us and our kids and to run a transparent process that follows the law.
We should also proceed with the belief that this job is good enough that we don’t need to pay someone to solicit applicants, we’ll get great candidates simply by advertising the job and accepting applications.
In each of the last two searches, the process was run by a search firm and not the school board. In both cases, the search firm was complicit in a process that fallaciously claimed there was only one finalist for the position. That shouldn’t happen again.
In each of the last two hires, the school board dramatically increased the salary in ways that weren’t necessary to get good candidates. In each of the last two hires, we ended up with a superintendent who stayed for a short period of time.
Instead of hiring a search firm, the board should establish a citizens committee, with staff support from the school district, to run the search process, establish priority qualifications, review applications and recommend candidates to the school board.
Once that process is completed, the school board should pick three to five finalists and bring those candidates before the public for an open and transparent process that welcomes public comment.
In each of the last two selection processes, the school board declared that there was a single finalist despite the fact that the processes it used culled the applicants several times before it settled on its preferred candidate.
Recent court decisions involving the process to choose the president at the University of Colorado and the superintendent for Academy District 20 in El Paso County should make it absolutely clear to the school board that mischaracterizing the process to say there is a single finalist when an open process proves that is not the case is illegal and, if challenged, will result in a ruling against the district and a requirement to pay legal fees for whoever challenges a flawed process.
Let’s make the third time a charm. Let’s use school staff and community volunteers to run the process instead of paying for a search firm. Let’s not unnecessarily pay the new superintendent too much. Let’s be open and honest about who are finalists and allow public analysis and input before the final decision. And let’s find someone committed to our community and our kids who will stick around for a reasonable period of time.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.