Opinion: Staff Editorial


Editors, Apple Leaf Staff

   Our school district is currently in the process of hiring a new superintendent and has contracted with the firm Hazard, Young, and Attea Associates, or HYA, to assist in this process. Currently, HYA is putting together a leadership profile that describes the strengths, challenges and unique characteristics of our district. To do this, they spent two full days meeting with parents, students and community groups in Wenatchee a few weeks ago and created a survey available for anyone to fill out on the district website. They also will soon begin advertising the superintendent position and accepting applications. This is where community involvement in the search process ends. The board will go into executive session to interview candidates, and there are currently no plans for community forums or other opportunities for anyone other than the board to get to know the candidates. The community will not even get to know their names.

   This is especially alarming for several reasons. First, HYA has a history of mishandling high-profile searches in recent years. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, HYA has placed candidates with questionable histories in school districts in Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas; some of the candidates were placed using fake credentials. In 2015 the Des Plaines School District contracted with HYA to find a new superintendent. The Daily Herald reported that after the district hired Floyd Williams to fill the position, they discovered that he had resigned from his previous job amid allegations that he kept nude photos on his district-issued computer and made inappropriate comments to his assistant. The background checks provided by HYA reflected none of that. The Des Plaines district ended up paying Williams $127,000 to resign after five district employees alleged that he had sexually harassed them. This is not the only example of a costly HYA candidate. According to the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis School District rescinded a job offer to a candidate who resigned at his previous job amid allegations of abuse. The entire process, originally contracted to cost $80,000, cost the district over $200,000. Our district can’t afford any costly mistakes.

   The Washington State School Directors Association recommends in their Superintendent Search Handbook that the community be involved because “The board gains major insights during this day from the perceptions of individuals and groups who meet the candidate.” Not only do they encourage school boards to have candidates meet with a few people, but they say “The experience for finalists in the school district has evolved into a kind of ‘marathon’ of activities. It is typical for the day to begin by 8:00 a.m. and conclude sometime after 9:00 p.m. in the evening. The superintendent candidates may be involved in meetings with individuals, groups, the board, interview settings, lunch and dinner meetings, etc.” In addition to letting the community interact with the candidates, the handbook says “One of the values of this variety of activity is that people can observe the candidates in several different contexts; this is frequently helpful in gauging how an individual might function in the hectic pace of the superintendent role.”

    In addition to this, when both former principal Bob Celebrezze and principal Eric Anderson were interviewed, the process was very open. Community forums were held and feedback was solicited from a variety of people

    During the elections last November, many of our current board members advocated for greater transparency at the board level. Excluding the general public from a major decision that will affect our district and community for years to come, regardless of the outcome, doesn’t seem very transparent to us.

   We encourage the school board to rethink the planned process for choosing a new superintendent. We all desire a candidate who is a strong fit not only with the board but the district as a whole. It is in the best interest of the board, the district and the community to follow WSSDA’s advice and keep the process as open as possible.