Board could name state education superintendent by fall

JACKSON — Mississippi could choose its new state superintendent of education by October.

The state Board of Education agreed to take applications for the post from early June through early September, with plans to interview finalists in late September and reach a contract with a new leader by October.

The department has been led by interim Superintendent Lynn House since Tom Burnham resigned nearly a year ago. House is not a candidate for the permanent post.

Consultant Gary Ray and his employees will survey educational leaders and associations about what they want to see in the next superintendent, drawing up a profile that the board could approve by the end of the month. The candidate pool would be winnowed to a group of eight to 12 people, with the board making its selection after one or two rounds of interviews in September.

Board member Charles McClelland, of Jackson, said he’d like to expedite the process because he fears that candidates might not want to leave their current jobs in the middle of the fall semester. But Ray told board members through a video conference that because many school personnel would be on vacation during the summer, his firm needed the full 90 days to publicize the opening and recruitment of candidates.

“The summer time is a difficult time to recruit because a lot of people are just not around,” Ray said. He agreed that the planned schedule might mean the next superintendent won’t start work until early 2014.

The state is paying Ray and Associates, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, more than $38,000 to help with the search.

Board members agreed to pay a new superintendent “in the range” of $300,000. Board members said the superintendent’s pay is capped at $305,000 a year.

“You’ll have to determine if they’re worth the money,” Ray said. “Our goal is to get them before you.”

The last two superintendents, Burnham and Hank Bounds, were selected from within Mississippi. Board member Hal Gage, of Vicksburg, who’s leading the search, said that being familiar with Mississippi would be an advantage, but is not a requirement.

“The most important thing is to get the right person for this job, someone who is an inspirational leader, someone who can bring the state together,” he said.

 

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