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Supt. search continues as board sets salary range

The Lebanon Community Schools Board of Directors set an annual salary range of $135,000 to $160,000 for the district’s next school superintendent during its Jan. 10 meeting.

Board President Tom Oliver said the range includes PERS and other retirement benefits. Board members based their decision on a report showing statewide school administrator’s compensation for the 2017-18 school year.

The Confederation of Oregon Administrators and the Oregon School Boards Association prepared the annual salary survey. According to the report, comparable district’s superintendent compensation ranged from $148,000 at Corvallis to $169,000 for the Linn Benton Lincoln Education Services District (LBL ESD).

Lebanon budgeted $144,638 for superintendent compensation during the 2017-18 school year. Lebanon board member Michael Martin took exception to including the LBL ESD in the salary comparisons. The ESD provides education and support services to 12 school districts in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties but does not operate any schools.

“It is not a fair comparison,” Martin said during a board discussion.

The board approved the recommended salary range 4-0. Board member

Board member Richard Borden was not present.

Oliver said the board set the salary now to include it in the job description. The district plans to launch a search for a new superintendent in the coming weeks. The board will negotiate a final salary agreement with the finalist of its search.

“It’s for the advertisement, so there is nothing totally binding,” Oliver said.

Lebanon Community

Superintendent Forums

Lebanon residents participated in two public forums on Jan. 10 and 11 to provide input on what the community expects from its next schools superintendent.

Hank Harris, president of the Washington D.C.-based consulting firm Human Capital Enterprises, led the discussions.

During the Jan. 10 forum, participants agreed that the new schools chief would face challenges in classroom overcrowding, budgeting, and alternative education opportunities.

“There’s a lack of places for kids to go who aren’t being successful in the traditional classroom,” said Shaunna Voepel, whose 8-year-old son Weston attends Hamilton Creek School.

“I’m looking for a superintendent that is going to support and nurture the development of new and the expansion of existing alternative classroom options for students.”

The school board chose Human Capital Enterprises to help shepherd the search for a new superintendent. Harris, a former Oregon educator and administrator, said that although his firm is based in D.C., 70 percent of his consulting work takes place in Oregon.

His associate in the superintendent search, Erin Prince, is a former Corvallis School District superintendent and past vice president of the nonprofit Chalkboard Project based in Portland.

Transparency in Search

Board members opted in December to hold a more open superintendent search process and set a calendar for the selection process.

Harris recommended to the board at the Dec. 17 meeting that it keep the search confidential until it had selected a final candidate.

He asked the board to decide on how confidential it wanted the search.

“It’s a question of the level of confidentiality that a candidate can expect from this process,” Harris said. A more confidential process will draw more candidates.

“There are many sitting superintendents that will only participate in searches where it will be confidential,” Harris said. “Some of the most talented superintendents are the ones who say ‘My relationship with my community and my board that if they think I’m looking at another district, that will cost me.’”

Alternatives are a completely open process, a completely closed process or an announcement of several finalists. Harris said most districts choose to release the name of the board’s final selection or to announce the finalists.

With less confidentiality, 20 to 25 community stakeholders sign nondisclosure agreements, represent the community and assist the board in the process, Harris said.

When finalists are announced, probably three or four potential candidates will choose not to apply, Harris said.

“My mind had already taken me to the finalists will have an open community forum,” said Oliver.

“The goal would be to have this process be as open as it possibly can be. It’s a personnel process. That’s always a struggle between providing the right amount of transparency but also protecting the candidates or the employees and the integrity of that process.

“I’m struggling a little bit with where we should be. I don’t want to compromise on the result of the process, but I think there is a significant expectation within the community that this is going to be very open. What’s it going to cost to make this as open as we can?”

“I think, given our past history, Tom, I think your intuition serves you well,” said Richard Borden, who was present at the December meeting.

“I don’t see column three really being the choice for us. I think the community has a high expectation from us that this will be transparent, as much as possible. If it costs a candidate, so be it. The transparency and the feedback from the community is instrumental in this.”

Board member Nick Brooks echoed Borden’s comment.

Board member Tammy Schilling was a little more measured: “The conversation in my head is I want to get the best person possible,”  she said. “I like the bifurcated level where you start out with a group of stakeholders being confidential, and if the community doesn’t like it, then you can always go back the other way.”

“We’re assuming that potentially one of those candidates that may put his or her hat in to the ring would be the best,” Borden responded. “I don’t agree with that assumption. It’s purely an assumption. There’s no way to factually back that up.

“What I do know is the feedback from the community outweighs in my mind those one or two candidates that may not put their hat in because of that. I value their input rather than a possibility. There’s no way to evaluate that possibility. I truly believe the community definitely wants input on this from the beginning.”

“The next superintendent has to be the community’s superintendent and not the board’s superintendent,” Brooks said. “If we don’t get that right…”

“…Then we’re done,” Borden said.

“That’s why I was put on this board, was to get that right,” Brooks said.

“I think for what you said, Richard, I think that’s where I’m leaning,” Oliver said.

“I’m struggling with that lean a little bit only in that I think, with the right group of stakeholders, we would get that really good community input, but I don’t want to run the risk of missing some of that input. So I think that’s where I would (land).”

The board informally decided 3-1 to move forward with a more open process in which it will announce finalist candidates.

Search Process Schedule

The board also set dates for the process.

Recruitment is beginning and will run through Feb. 21.

An online survey is available on the district’s website, lebanon.k12.or.us, through Jan. 14.

From the information gathered at the public meetings and the website, Harris will develop an “ideal profile,” which the board will consider Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The board also will finalize a process for final interviews.

At 6 p.m. on Feb. 28, the board will meet in executive session to review a recommended slate of candidates.  All candidates and applications will be available for the board’s review. The board will select between six and nine candidates to interview March 8 and March 9.

The board will narrow the group to about three candidates and conduct a second round of interviews, announcing the names of the finalists and hosting them in a community visit from March 18 to March 20, with the board selecting a finalist on March 21.

A public announcement of the decision is scheduled tentatively for April 11, with the new superintendent going to work on July 1.

Present at the meeting were Schilling, Borden, Oliver and Brooks. Mike Martin was absent.

Policy Updates

In other business on Dec. 17, the board approved policy updates that will require volunteers who have direct unsupervised contact with students to undergo a nationwide background check and fingerprinting. Other volunteers will go through a statewide criminal records check.

The board approved the policy update on its second reading. It previously held lengthy discussions about the policy revisions.

By Larry Coonrod and Sean C. Morgan