Search firm asks for board unity

Staff WriterAugust 10, 2010 

— The search firm helping to find Wake County's new superintendent urged the fractured school board on Monday to temporarily put aside their differences to unite behind the person who will be the next schools chief.

The school board has split 5-4 on key votes since December, including abandoning the district's socioeconomic diversity policy in favor of community schools. George Conway, who heads the search team from Heidrick & Struggles, warned that the caliber of the candidates could be weakened unless the board can unanimously back the new superintendent.

"This is going to be a tough job on a good day," Conway said. "One thing a school leader needs when trying to address a myriad of challenges is the support of the board."

Wake has been looking for a new superintendent since Del Burns resigned because of his disagreements with the new board majority's direction. Donna Hargens, Wake's chief academic officer, is serving as interim superintendent.

Conway said participants in feedback sessions said that they feel Wake is a good school system. But they said one of the challenges is improving the school system's public image.

"We're going to get good candidates," said board member Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the search committee. "We should get someone everyone can support."

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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