The 15 applicants and counting who have applied for the Winona Area Public Schools' (WAPS) superintendent position are set to be reviewed and the list narrowed down by the School Board in the coming weeks.
“We have a rather interesting pool of applicants,” Brian Boettcher, managing consultant with BKB Executive Search Consultants, explained.
At the board meeting on Thursday, Boettcher gave an update on the nationwide search for current WAPS superintendent Scott Hannon’s replacement, which included providing a timeline for the selection process. He was also able to give the board a few details about the 15 current applicants. BKB anticipates the total will reach 20 after the Wednesday, January 15, application deadline. So far, of the 15 current applicants, eight are superintendents, four are assistant superintendents and three are school principals. They come from as far away as North Carolina and Texas, and as close by as other Minnesota districts.
“We are excited about the pool now,” Boettcher said.
BKB to consult,
board to decide
After former Superintendent Paul Durand's contract was not renewed, Hannon took the job on an interim basis in 2010. After a majority of board members publicly stated they preferred Hannon for the permanent post during a search process in 2011 and 2012, all superintendent finalists removed themselves from the process, and Hannon was named permanent superintendent. Earlier this month, he formally announced plans to retire at the end of the current school year.
BKB consultant Jerry Robicheau discussed the failed search process during an interview, expressing confidence that the district would, this time, find a new superintendent. “I’m not sure what the dynamics were at that point,” he said of the 2011-2012 superintendent search. “It has been [over a year] since that transpired, and time heals a lot of things.”
As the consulting firm hired to assist the board in finding Hannon’s replacement, BKB has made it clear that it intends to provide the board with recommendations and advice on how to pick the best candidate for the job, but not select the finalists. It is up to the board to determine who will be the next WAPS superintendent.
“The board is the decision-maker,” Robicheau stated. “They say, ‘okay BKB, you go out and recruit.’ They will make the final decision, [and decide] the structure of the interviews, who will be involved. We offer suggestions and advice based on our experience.”
According to the timeline presented at the board meeting, after the applications are turned in, BKB will screen candidates based on the list of desired characteristics it created after conversing with the board. On February 3, BKB will recommend as semifinalists those who meet the requirements set forth by the board.
“That evening we will present our thoughts on who we think meet the profile we developed,” Boettcher explained. “We will take the profile and reference checking and say, ‘Here are our thoughts; here are five or six people we think you’re looking for.’”
On February 12, after the board has determined the list of semifinalists, the first round of interviews will be conducted with the help of BKB and an additional advisory board, which Boettcher suggested be made up of community members.
“We will put in place an advisory group of staff who will actually interview the candidates. An advisory group of community people,” he said.
Along with Pat Blaisdell, WAPS director of human resources, BKB will assist in coordinating the community advisory board, to reflect the diversity of the district.
Blaisdell suggested that each School Board member nominate one member (which was ultimately changed to two members) of the community, and that she and BKB consultants would ensure the list included representatives from Saint Mary’s University, Winona State University, Southeast Technical, the city of Winona, and Winona County.
“Each board member could identify one community member and we will put them together in a list and see if there are any obvious holes,” Blaisdell explained. “If there’s an obvious void, we would contact those organizations and ask them to participate.”
After the community board is created and the first round of interviews is over, the School Board will take the input received and determine the finalists. From there, in-depth reference checks will be conducted and a second round of interviews will be held on February 18 or 19, with visits to the candidates’ communities expected to occur in early March. Finally, the board will decide who it will name the new WAPS superintendent in mid or late March.
“The ones we bring you will be qualified. They will meet the criteria — that’s kind of like the science,” Boettcher explained of the process. “You get to apply the art and the sweet sauce on top of all that and choose the one you think will meet your criteria for the district now.”