With Beatrice Public Schools Superintendent Pat Nauroth set to retire at the end of the current school year, the Beatrice Board of Education began discussions on how to find his replacement.
On Monday night, at the board’s September meeting, members accepted Nauroth’s resignation and talked about various options available as they start the search for Beatrice’s new superintendent.
Nauroth announced last week that he would be submitting his resignation to the board at this week’s meeting, after serving as superintendent since 2013.
Even though less than a week had passed since Nauroth's announcement, board President Lisa Pieper said that the board has already received several emails, texts and phone calls from multiple search firms eager to work with the district. One firm had already offered a proposal, she said, though it hadn’t been read as of Monday’s meeting.
Board member Doris Martin asked if any school boards forego the search firm process and instead try to find a superintendent on their own. Martin also asked if the board might speak with them before choosing a firm. One issue she was concerned about was what exactly the firms do, other than vetting applicants.
“I guess I'm really concerned about spending that amount of money when the district is facing some real money concerns,” Martin said. “Maybe someone can shed some light on it, maybe something they do that I'm not aware of.”
Superintendent search firms can cost school districts thousands of dollars, though how much a search for Nauroth’s replacement would cost remains to be seen.
“I've been involved with either three or four superintendent searches,” said board member Steve Winter. “I guess, as I think back on most of them, I know that there would be a lot of work involved for board members if we chose not to do a search firm.”
While the idea of the board working alone isn’t out of the question, Winter said, it’s important that the board goes a little more in depth before proceeding with any option. The board has good and bad experiences when it comes to using firms for superintendent searches, he said.
While using firms for the superintendent searches in 2010 and again in 2012, the Nebraska Attorney General’s office found that the Beatrice Board of Education violated the open meetings act, but did not recommend any civil or criminal punishment. In 2010, the Attorney General’s office found that the board had violated the act when then-President Jim Spangler called other members of the board individually to ask for the five votes needed to secure a contract for Jon Lopez, and again in 2012, when the board entered an executive session to narrow the field of candidates for superintendent without the public present.
Board member Janet Byars said she’d be interested in looking into what other school districts have done when they’ve looked for a superintendent on their own. She said she wants to find out the pros and cons to that process.
Martin said she wanted to make sure the board didn’t automatically go through a firm because that's what districts typically do and asked what it was that search firms provide that the board couldn’t do on their own.
“I think one of the most important things they do is: they do all the research and background into them,” said board Vice President Jon Zimmerman. “They make thousands of phone calls to find out about skeletons in the closet.”
Pieper said she remembered that the firm narrowed down the candidate list to around 10 people and recommended four to the board for consideration.
Martin said the board should think outside of the box rather than pay a firm to make phone calls and make lists of qualities an ideal candidate should have, saying the board could do most of that work.
Byars recommended the possibility of a blended approach in which the board would do a portion of the work and a firm would complete the other portion, including the vetting process and background checks.
Pieper also recommended the idea of forming a committee to look for a superintendent, though, she said, with a relatively small board, a committee might be difficult to form.
“I think, depending on the size of the committee, it really puts a lot of weight on few people if you do it that way,” Winter said. “I don't know what the answer is, but I'd like to see all board members be involved somehow, but I don't know if we all have the time to spend doing it. Just because I'm retired, don't look at me.”
The board didn’t take any action and will continue the discussion at future meetings, but the board will ask firms to submit proposals for consideration.