Bremerton School District interim superintendent search continues

July interviews yield no hires; update coming Tuesday.

As the 2008-09 school year looms, the Bremerton School District (BSD) Board of Directors continues its search for an interim superintendent to relieve pro tem superintendent Linda Jenkins, who stepped in July 1 after Bette Hyde retired.

The board’s objective since May has been to fill the interim position before classes begin Sept. 3.

That goal remains possible, but time is dwindling.

“It has taken longer than I anticipated,” board member DeWayne Boyd said Tuesday.

Boyd’s comments follow an Aug. 7 board meeting when consultant Gay Selby, who was hired by the district to oversee the search and hiring process, delivered an update that clarified little except that the search will go on.

Selby said the board can continue to look for an interim, continue with the current arrangement (Jenkins as pro tem) or look at candidates who are eligible to be hired via the retire-rehire law.

“My intent is to continue with those options going forward and report back to the board within about a week to 10 days,” Selby said, speaking directly to the board. “Then (you) will have to evaluate where you are and what steps you want to take.”

Those evaluations figure to surface during an executive session scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 19, when Selby will update the board again.

“We hope to have a really good idea of where we stand,” Boyd said of the upcoming session.

The board received more than 12 applications after opening the superintendent search and interviewed two candidates July 8 — Stephen Rowley and Tim McCarthy — but made no hire, choosing to keep its options open.

Size wise, BSD’s list of candidates ranked higher than many districts in similar predicaments.

“That’s a respectable pool today,” Selby said. “There were (superintendent) searches in the state that did not have that many candidates in their pool.”

Because Hyde’s replacement was not secured by May, the board has faced hurdles while looking for an interim who matches the district’s needs.

“The difficulty is by the time you get into May, many of the districts who have been involved in searching for superintendents have filled those positions, so the pool of candidates is significantly reduced,” Selby said. “Even people who have interest to apply may say it’s too late to leave their current job to move elsewhere.”

The number of available superintendents state-wide has decreased in recent years, Selby said, attributing the decline to the difficulty of the job, Washington state’s unattractive retirement plan to out-of-state candidates, and in-house hiring trends and higher pay scales in the largest districts.

“I can tell you that the candidate pool for superintendent searches in our state has been declining every year for the last number of years,” she said.

Approximately 50 districts in the state will have a new superintendent for the 2008-09 school year, according to Selby, and about half of those hires were in-house.

“In other words, we’ve seen a real trend in the last number of years of districts thinking very seriously about identifying or hiring people in their district.

“I think that’s because, one, the pools (of candidates) are not as large as they have been before... Secondly, with the kind of initiatives districts have with school reform, there’s some reluctance to take a risk on hiring a newcomer because (districts) are committed to the direction of the programs they’ve established.”

Selby’s words mirror what the board has said since the search began — that it wants to find a superintendent who will carry the torch Hyde both ignited and left burning.

“The big thing is we’ve made so much progress in the district that we don’t want to move backward,” Boyd said. “We’ve been selective.”

Hyde logged seven years as superintendent, spearheading the construction of Mountain View Middle School’s new building, promoting early childhood education and advocating diversity. Under her watch, the district earned a “lighthouse” distinction and received a Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) Diversity Award in 2007.

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