Ennis School Board gets MSBA to help in search for Doug Walsh’s replacement

The Ennis School District has contracted with the Montana School Board Association to spearhead their search for a new superintendent.

“I think that going with the school board association we are putting the professionals in charge and they have a database right now of people looking for superintendent positions,” said Ennis School Board Chairman Marc Glines.

The search for a superintendent started after current superintendent Doug Walsh announced his retirement last month. Walsh’s retirement will be effective at the end of June and if all goes well a new superintendent will be on board by then, said Joe Brott, Director of Policy Services at the MSBA.

Brott is serving as the lead contact with the Ennis School Board.

The process for finding a new superintendent is expected to take about 10 weeks and is already underway, he said.

The service provided by the MSBA costs the school district about $5,800 and includes a wide variety of services including advertising the position, collecting applications, background and reference checks and a synthesis of applications, Brott said.

The Ennis superintendent position will be advertised nationally, he said.

The position is open now and the deadline for applications will be March 29. On April 3, the school board will meet to review applications. At that meeting they will determine the finalists.

The MSBA won’t rank the applications or provide any insight to which candidate is best, Brott said.

“The school board association firmly believes that is the role of the local school board,” he said.

However, Brott and his staff will provide a matrix that analyzes each application and looks at what position each applicant currently holds, their current salary and professional endorsements.

“Then it’s the boards job to go through all of those applications however they see fit … to select some finalists,” Brott said.

This initial meeting could take most of the day and will start at 8 a.m.

“The screening process is an open meeting, but there is no give and take or communication between the public and the board because possible individual privacy information that may be in the application packets,” he said.

It will be important for the board to determine finalists at this first meeting, Brott said. Once the list of finalists is determine, he’ll call them while the meeting is still in session to see if they are available for an interview.

“They will narrow it down to as many applicants that they feel they want to interview based on the applications and that can range from two to five,” he said. “Before the board leaves that night we kind of want to make sure that those they want to can come forward for an interview.”

Once the finalists are selected, the MSBA will set up an itinerary for interviews, which will also be conducted at a public meeting.

The tentative schedule for interviews will be the week of April 16, Brott said.

After the last interview, the board will deliberate over the candidates and take public comment on candidates, he said. During this deliberation time, Brott will also present his report on the background and reference checks of each finalist.

Ideally, the board members will make a decision on who they want to hire as superintendent after they deliberate, Brott said. But they might also want to conduct follow up interviews with candidates as well.

Throughout the hiring process, the school board will be collecting public input, he said.

Brott is going to oversee a series of focus groups to solicit input from community members, teaching staff, non-teaching staff and students.

These focus group meetings will be held prior to April 3, but Brott hasn’t determined a schedule yet.

The school board has also put an online survey on the school’s website to solicit public input into the superintendent search process. The survey is simple and asks four questions about what qualities will be needed in a new superintendent.

“The school board association is trying to involve the public as much as possible and that was the school board’s goal,” Glines said.

During an average year, the MSBA does about a dozen superintendent searches for school districts around the state, Brott said.

Currently, the average number of applicants for a superintendent opening is between 15 and 20, he said.

To fill out the school board survey, go to the school’s website at www.ennisschools.org. The next school board meeting will be March 13 at 5 p.m.

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