CARY — The Wake County Board of Education is set for a contentious debate as it chooses its next superintendent, and the public has its chance this week to say what it is looking for in the systems new leader.
A team of four consultants from across the country is in Wake County this week, tasked with collating public demands of the next school system executive. To do that, they aim to interview elected officials, parents, business representatives and everyday people across 48 sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The public input started slowly Monday morning, but a dozen more people showed up for sessions by lunchtime and more filed in throughout the day. An additional session was scheduled for Cary High School on Monday night.
Bob Moore, a Raleigh businessman, was the first to weigh in. He was outnumbered two-to-one by consultants at the 8 a.m. session, but he gamely answered their battery of questions.
His interviewers were John Smith, a former deputy superintendent in New Orleans, and Robert Witten, a regional education director from Pennsylvania, on behalf of the McPherson & Jacobson firm. They asked about the strengths of the county and the school system, the challenges a superintendent would face and the abilities he or she would need.
For his part, Moore said heated debates on the school board were both a sign of passion and a potential detriment to the system. A superintendent, he said, would need to be both flexible in planning and firm in execution, a good listener who could move boldly toward an agreed-upon vision.
How do you lead a group of people who are essentially doing this only part time? asked Moore, whos a member of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerces education committee. Theres quite honestly been a lot of shenanigans and acting out, and the communitys tired of that.
The school board agreed in January to hire McPherson & Jacobson for about $47,000; the firm will combine school board and community perspectives into a rubric to screen applicants. In May, the board will schedule candidates put forward by the firm, but it also could request another slate if its unhappy with the results of the search.
The school board has indicated that it wants a superintendent with experience in education. The elected officials are also looking for a consensus builder, a strong communicator who can keep the district focused on student achievement, and someone who has human resources experience.
You guys got your work cut out for you, Moore told the consultants. The sessions continue Tuesday and Wednesday, with specific times set for different groups of people.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary