Search is on for Lee County superintendent search firm

Former finalists from district office staying silent on plans
Mar. 27, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

When Dr. Lynn Smith sent letters to various management search firms Tuesday morning, seeking bids for their services in finding a new superintendent for Lee County Schools, he was reaching out to several already familiar with the district.

Smith, chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, was contacted by four interested firms prior to a meeting Monday night — when the board decided, in closed session, to conduct a national search instead of keeping the focus local in an effort to replace Superintendent Jeff Moss. Moss recently announced his intent to retire from North Carolina in June and take a superintendent position in Beaufort County, S.C.

The firms are expected to send their bids to the school board in time for members to make a decision at their April 9 meeting, Smith said. The applicants so far are the N.C. School Board Association, Nebraska-based McPherson and Jacobson, Iowa-based Ray and Associates (which found Moss for the South Carolina job), and Donny Hunter — a Broadway resident who's president of National Search and Education Consulting, which led local searches in 2008 that found both Moss and Central Carolina Community College President Bud Marchant.

National Search and Education Consulting, which competed against the State School Board for the 2008 superintendent search contract, was paid $17,486 by the board of education, which also paid travel and lodging costs for prospective candidates.

Smith said there's no money set aside in this year's budget to hire a search firm, and that he and other officials are looking for sources from which to pull funding.

Once a firm is chosen, he said, consultants will begin working to determine what kind of skills and characteristics would be best for the district's new leader to possess. Smith said he's also hoping for a series of public hearings to give locals a say in that process. Such meetings were held five years ago, although Frank Thompson, who was board chairman then, told The Herald at the time that almost no one from outside the school system showed up.

Smith added that a search firm will be necessary because the experts such firms employ are able to comb through hundreds of applicants to choose and vet dozens of candidates — and Smith said he'd like to see at least 25 candidates before he and the other six board members whittle the pool down to a smaller group of finalists.

"The more the merrier," he said. "... That probably is the key to success — when the the pool gets too small, you don't always get as good a sample."

Two members of the district office — Andy Bryan, the associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Carol Chappell, the director of K-5 instruction — held those same positions in 2008, when they were among five finalists in the national search that ultimately netted Moss.

However, both said Tuesday it would be inappropriate to comment on whether or not they plan to apply for the upcoming vacancy, noting that a search committee hadn't been hired yet and applications would not be accepted until that time.