The superintendent search: A PR perspective (part 1)

Since my local school district has started looking again for a superintendent, I’ve been thinking about the entire hiring process.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in hiring for businesses and public institutions.

On the business side, in addition to hiring for my own businesses,  I’ve hired staff for the two newspapers for which I was a local news editor, and worked in the human resources department of a resort hotel.

On the public side, I was a community representative in the interview process for Superintendent Donald Wheeler. By coincidence, I was also involved in the interview process for Bainbridge-Guilford’s search facilitator, Alan Pole, when he applied to be superintendent of the DCMO BOCES; I was on the BOCES Instructional Support staff then.  I was also on a committee that chose the architect the State of West Virginia hired to design its  Eastern Panhandle juvenile detention center in the early 1980s.

Those diverse experiences taught me that there’s no right way to hire: The process needs to fit the job.

The process also has to satisfy its public.

Understandable, accessible public information is the center of good school public relations.  I know that from a theoretical perspective (my second masters is from the educational communications program at Syracuse University, where my courses were in the school of education and the Newhouse School of Public Communications)  and from covering public education as a newspaper reporter.

People at the local level are very interested in the activities of their local governing bodies.

When they appear not to be interested, the reason is almost always the failure of those local governing bodies to provide information in ways that are conveniently accessible and understandable.

In preparing to do a superintendent search, the school board or its representative needs to figure out how to make each of the constituent groups feel its concerns have been heard. That public relations task is essential during a time of transition.

The board also needs to figure out how much weight the various stakeholder groups opinions should carry.  That decision that’s best made early in the hiring process before applications begin being received so that hiring process is perceived to be fair and unbiased.

In hiring a new superintendent, a school board has a chance to score points with the public for the open, accessible, and thorough way they handle the search.

The also have a chance to land the unwitting new person in hot water and discredit themselves with the public by their ineptitude.

In a series of blog posts,  I’ll lay out a plan for hiring a school superintendent, approaching the process from the perspective of what needs to happen to satisfy the public’s need for information so the process appears fair and transparent and so stakeholders feel their concerns have been taken into consideration.

Related posts:

All the posts in this series:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: Identify stakeholders
  • Part 3: Set stage for stakeholder participation
  • Part 4:  Prepare the invitation to apply and  give potential interviewers resources
  • Part 5:  Keep good interview records
  • Part 6:  Check references following interviews
  • Part 7:  Explain your choice & archive paperwork