Potential incoming school board candidates took part in discussions regarding a superintendent search. Seated in the front row are John Wortman, Tammi Holden, Dan Sullivan, and Kris Hodak. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

Current and Incoming School Board Opts to Initiate Superintendent Search ASAP

October 24, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – The candidates on the ballot for school board didn’t want to wait until they were seated in December to start searching for a new superintendent.

All six candidates who will appear on the November ballot for Warren County School District Board of Directors were invited to Monday’s committee meetings to help plot the course in the search for a new WCSD Superintendent. Current Superintendent Amy Stewart announced that she will retire as of March 1, 2024.

The candidates raised two chief concerns regarding the search process, making sure there was a contingency plan in place in case a new superintendent wasn’t found prior to Stewart’s last day, and whether starting the search process now would mean the current board defines the criteria for selecting superintendent candidates.

“What could happen is, we can get the legal process going of getting the agreement in place so that they’re here and ready to go in December,” board member Donna Zariczny said.

Following a lengthy discussion, all six potential new members agreed that the current board should get a contract in place with a consultant firm, with the caveat that the firm gets superintendent candidate criteria from the new board when it is seated.

“As far as I’m concerned, you are all school directors until Dec. 4 at 5:59 p.m., and I think we should continue to move forward and make decisions that are in the best interest of the district,” Region I candidate John Wortman said. “And that will allow the board that is coming on to start from the strongest possible place. And I think that what matters is what’s in the best interest of our children, our students, our staff, and how can we keep the district functioning at the highest level possible. I think right now you’re in the best position to keep doing that.”

Wortman raised concerns about the “continuity of government” and the process for finding an interim superintendent, if necessary.

“Not only would a significant number of new board members have to be immediately considering hiring a new superintendent. But will the structure be in place for the district to continue to operate and function in the absence of the current superintendent,” Wortman said.

Board member Arthur Stewart suggested that the board could start reaching out to qualified administrators within the district, including asking Amy Stewart if she would be willing to stay on an interim basis, to get a pool of interim candidates ready for the new board.

“I’ve been around long enough to remember that there’s another administrator that works for the school district that had their hat in the ring for superintendent,” Arthur Stewart said. “And that person was a highly acceptable candidate that nearly got hired and would have done very well. That person might be someone as well. And so this board could really help facilitate that before December.”

Two of the three board members who will remain on the board in December indicated they wanted to begin the search process sooner, rather than later, at least in part because the new board will only have one member who has experience with a superintendent search.

“I understand the concern with new board members coming on not wanting to move in a direction that they might oppose or whatever, but if we do nothing when they come on, we only have one person that has ever been involved in a search,” board member Mary Passinger said. “I would prefer to use your expertise as far as getting started. The new board will have to make a hard decision as far as who to hire.”

Prior to the discussion about whether to proceed with the search, the board – current and incoming – heard presentations from both Intermediate Unit 9 and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to be hired to facilitate the superintendent search.

Personnel, Athletics, and Co-Curricular Activities chair Kevin Lindvay made a motion to put an item on the Nov. 6 regular board meeting agenda to contract with PSBA, but have them wait to discuss the attribute criteria until the Nov. 20 committee meetings and invite the newly elected board members to take part in those discussions.

According to the presentation by PSBA, the district can choose one of four options to assist in the search: 1. A comprehensive package where the PSBA team assists at virtually every step in the search process at a cost of $15,000. 2. A support package that includes support but is less hands-on at a cost of $5,000. 3. An application management service that includes minimal support at a cost of $2,500. 4. A Career Gateway posting on the PSBA job board at a cost of $575.

         

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