The superintendent search from a PR perspective (part 5)

Up until candidates are interviewed, most of the work of searching for a new superintendent is planning.

First, the school board develops a plan for the overall process, then it develops plans for engaging stakeholders and proactively enabling them to participate well in the process.

Those planning processes are activities that hold good opportunities for the school board to earn public relations points by showing what it is doing to make sure it is going to get the best candidate available to it.

The actual choice process, however, is almost entirely closed to any by invited participants.

Except for general information, there’s rarely a reason for what happens in the closed sessions to be made public.

The one reason the closed session information might need to be made public is when subsequent disclosures suggest the school board failed to exercise due diligence.  In such cases, public relations activities are used to limit the damage to the board’s reputation.

The best PR mechanism for controlling damage is good records showing the board did exercise due diligence.

The first protective measure is having complete records of the candidate interviews.

5. Keep good interview records

A list of initial questions a stakeholder group wants to ask each candidate should be prepared in advance and kept short enough that all the prepared questions can be asked and answered and still allow time for follow-up questions. Those initial questions lists should be submitted to the school board before the board members prepare their own interview questions.

Written records should show what topics were discussed by which stakeholder groups with each candidate—and that the same topics were discussed with each one.

The records should also show how each interviewer rated each candidate, and summarize the ratings for each stakeholder group on each candidate. (Links to sample forms in a post about resources for hiring superintendents.) Also a copy of the each groups’ questions should be kept with the stakeholder groups’ evaluation forms.

I alluded earlier in this series of posts to the need for the school board to decide early in the hiring process how much weight the various stakeholder groups opinions should carry. This weighting of input has no direct part in the hiring process, but it should have a part in determining what issues are followed up in post-interview reference checks.

For simplicity, let’s say the board has identified five stakeholder groups whose opinions are to be sought. They might decide to assign these weights to the opinions of the various groups:

  • administrative staff – 3
  • instructional staff – 4 votes
  • non-instructional staff – 1 vote
  • parents – 1 vote
  • community – 1 vote

Weighting the results would give the school board a sense of which finalists’ references need to be checked very carefully on the topics relative to the concerns of a particular group.

For example, if a particular issue is a big concern to the instructional staff, that would suggest the board needs to probe for information about how candidates handle that issue when they check references because the board decided in advance that the instructional staff’s input would be given the most weight of all the stakeholder groups.

Tomorrow: Part 6: Check references

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