By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
The search process for the next Superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) began last week, when the school board held a public hearing with representatives from the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) to set a time line to achieve that goal by October.
According to Virginia state law, the board has 180 days to replace Dr. Samuel King, who resigned in March. King formally resigned April 30.
At the same time the city is seeking a new superintendent, it also will be replacing four members of the school board whose terms expire on June 30.
The Norfolk City Council has to decide if it wants to retain or replace Chairman Rev. Kirk T. Houston, Vice Chair Courtney R. Doyle, Dr. Brad N. Robinson and Dr. Warren A. Stewart.
There are education advocates who would like certain members of the board replaced. In 2010 the council replaced the Chair and Vice chair and two other members, sweeping the panel clean.
But what the council will do this time in the midst of the critical process of choosing a new school chief when experience and continuity are important is unknown.
Norfolk citizens voted last year to elect their school board members but that will not take effect in part until 2016.
The clock started ticking May 1 for a new superintendent, according to Gina Patterson, VSBA’s Executive Director, who attended the first of several meetings with Norfolk School Board, accompanied by the agency’s Assistant Executive Director, Peter Sengenberger.
The school board recruited the VSBA to assist in selecting the new superintendent.
During last week’s meeting on May 13, the school board selected two methods it will use to allow all of the “stakeholders”—parents, teachers, business persons, etc.—to give input into the qualities and character of the new superintendent they desire.
One is a paper and online survey available to allow Norfolk residents to provide that insight at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NorfolkSupt.
Hard copies of the survey also will be made available at the Central Administration Building, every school in the division, public libraries, and other outlets throughout the city that will be announced.
Completed hard copy surveys can be turned in at any school.
Residents will have until June 6 to submit the surveys which will be compiled and assessed.
During the informal session May 13, the board decided to stage four public hearings and two “chat and chew” sessions to receive input.
The first was held May 20, in the meeting room of the board in the Central Administration building.
The second will be held June 3 at 7 p.m. at Norview High School. The third will be held the following day – June 4 – at 1 p.m. at the Berkley/Campostella Early Childhood Center.
The fourth public meeting will be held June 6 at 10 a.m. at the Academy for Discovery at Lakewood (formerly Lafayette Winona Middle School).
Both of the ‘chat and chews’ will be held at the Norfolk Technical Center on June 2 and June 9 at 12 p.m.
Board member Rodney Jordan will serve as the primary point of contact between the Norfolk School Board and the Virginia School Boards Association which was selected to assist with the search.
“Hiring a new superintendent is the most important task that any school board will undertake, and we want to make sure that the public has a voice in this process,” said Jordan, “We strongly encourage all stakeholders, including parents, staff and residents, to fill out the survey and attend the public hearings to let the school board know what qualifications and characteristics our community is looking for in Norfolk’s next superintendent.”
The board will use the input from the surveys and community forums to formulate a set of final qualifications for applicants and submit them to the VSBA by mid-June. The VSBA will then post an announcement of the opening, using its state and national network.
Applications will be received from mid-June to July 10 and the board, along with the VSBA, will hold a meeting on July 30 to begin vetting the applicants.
Interviews for the candidates will be held in August and September and the board hopes to select the new superintendent by October.
Board members stressed an interest in candidates who are already running a school division. Also, board members decided to keep the names of the final list of candidates secret. The board steered away from a public forum allowing public interaction with candidates, a move Peter Sengenberger encouraged.
Since the former superintendent exited, parent and business-led education advocacy groups such as Norfolk GAINS and Better Together Norfolk, have called for more transparency in the school board search, including posting of the resumes of the applicants and open forums to meet them.
The board’s desire not to disclose the names of applicants who are employed was aimed at not complicating their employment status with their current employers.
Sengenberger also warned there may be a rush of interest toward the very end of the deadline period for receiving applications.
Applications for the four upcoming school board vacancies will be accepted by the council until June 9 at 5 p.m., according to the city clerk’s office.
The council will then ask for resumes from these applicants and the panel will review them for considerations.
Applicants will receive an interview if they receive three votes from the council. The council will then vote to select from among those people who are granted interviews on June 30 and their tenure will begin July 1.