Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Farris Named Interim Commissioner, will not be candidate for permanent position

KSN&C report: Breaking

Board decides on National Search
and Search Firm assistance

Whole Board will Screen Candidates

This afternoon the Kentucky Board of Education accepted the resignation of Education Commissioner Jon Draud. Draud's resignation follows a positive evaluation from the Board and was prompted by health-related issues.

He will be replaced in the short term by Deputy Commissioner Elaine Farris, who becomes the first African American woman to serve in that post in Kentucky.

Following a discussion of pros and cons, by consensus, the board agreed to conduct a national search, utilizing a search firm.

Target dates:
  • RFP by or before February 10th meeting.
  • Discuss role and expectations for the Commish and search firm at the February meeting
  • Select firm by March. Possibly moving the March 4th meeting date and adding a day to agenda (10th & 11th)
  • New Commish August 1st
The board seemed ready to approve the use of a screening committee process when, after a break, board member Austin Moss made a plea for the board to reconsider. His comments reflected a concern for board unity.

One of the opportunities we have is to always do what's best for children. I think we do that when we are inclusive and working together and all on the same page with the same information.
Moss went on to express his concern over the frequency of commissioner changes and his desire that all members have "equal input into the evaluation of the candidates." He said, "a committee "becomes more divisive, for me."
We've had a hard set of conversations recently relative to leadership (a likely reference to the 3 1/2 hours closed session in December.) and I don't want that to continue as we move forward in selecting this new commissioner.
After another brief discussion Chairman Joe Brothers recanvassed the members who agreed to serve as a committee of the whole. When a quorum of the board meets in committee it carries with it all of the open meetings responsibilities. So expect a number of special meetings of the board this spring, held in closed session, without action.

Chairman Joe Brothers asked the board to discuss the search process the board wished to follow. The board had the option of doing the search themselves or putting it out to bid and they chose to hire a search firm.

Dorie Combs kicked off the discussion saying, "I think we'd want to do a national search." That was followed by members suggesting the board "use a search firm to help us with the process" but that "we need to develop a set of questions for the search firm." One member reminded the board that "We have been burned by that process" (in the past). Combs said, "We do want to make sure that the search firm works for and with us. They do the detail work, but it comes down to our decisions."

Veteran board member, Doug Hubbard, suggested,

"Let's go back to the qualified persons we talked to in the last search and see if we could interest either of them... For those of you who may not have been here, after the lady from Missouri (Barbara Erwin, Illinois), or whatever, departed, I think it was on a Thursday night, the next time we came together, we discussed about approaching three people that we had considered qualified to be commissioner, to see if we could interest any of those three. And, as I recall, one of them at the time had made a commitment to the district with which he was employed, (an apparent reference to Stu Silberman) that he was going to be there for a set number of years. And he chose to honor that.... Keith (Travis) was involved in doing that so I don't know exactly what was done. It was my understanding that passes were made by one or two of these other people. But, anyway, I just suggest that. Those of you who have not gone through a commissioner's search, much less, two commissioner's searchers, might not appreciate the time and stress and expenses (involved). It's something to think about."
Actually, there were three untapped candidates in the "last" search: Richard Hughes, a professor at Morehead State University and former superintendent of the Hardin County school district; Larry Vick, superintendent of the Owensboro Independent school district; and Jim Warford, executive director/CEO of the Florida Association of School Administrators and a former chancellor for Florida’s public schools. But Hubbard was probably referring to the prior search, the one that produced Barbara Erwin. The finalists at that time were Mitchell Chester, who since became Commissioner of Massachusetts, and Richard LaPointe, a former deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education.

Steven Neal countered, "It seems to me it's time for a new beginning." he called for a national search and the use of a search firm.

After several more members weighed in, in support of a national search, Hubbard got off the best joke of the day.

"I have absolutely no objection to a wide national search, fifteen search firms, or whatever everybody wants to do." If the issue was whether we tried a year and a half ago - we did try. "Last time we were criticized for not doing a national search... Of course, we only had candidates from 23 states and three froeign countries. ..for a country boy from Bardstown, that was pretty national."
But Combs was cautious offering,

I think it's very important that we do this very carefully; by the book. And while we might do some things that would save us money - in the end, it might not save money. I don't want to cut corners on these important decisions and going through the process.
Members mentioned the need "to do better than we did the last time."

"I don't think this is a process that can be easily rushed," another offered, but "we have the advantage, as laborious as it was, that we have been through this before recently."

"The fact that we've had trouble in the past makes us less desirable," another said.

Then Hubbard offered some historical perspective that was not widely reported.

We're dealing with entirely different circumstances now, than then. 'Cause remember, at that time, we did not know that our chairman was trying to get (the) job. And certainly...if Joe wants to be commissioner, (turning to Brothers) tell us now!

KSN&C Backstory.

No comments: