If all goes according to plan, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board will swear in a new member March 3.
The board voted unanimously Thursday to approve a process and timeline for replacing Michelle Brownstein, who resigned Dec. 28 with nearly two years left in her term.
Though she said little at the time, Brownstein pointed to a Dec. 3 vote in which a trio of newly elected board members joined forces to appoint James Barrett as board chair over her objections.
To fill her seat, board members agreed to solicit applications from the public starting Monday, Jan. 25. Applicants must live in the school district and be registered voters at least 21 years of age without any felony convictions. They’ll also need to submit three letters of recommendation and answer a questionnaire detailing leadership experience, community engagement, and familiarity with issues facing the district.
Board members say they want to give each applicant a chance to offer a statement in person, but they’re also concerned that interviewing a large number of applicants could prove unwieldy, as was the case when 15 candidates applied to fill the seat left vacant by Mia Burroughs’ election to the Orange County Board of Commissioners in 2014.
“If we only got four applicants, that may be a reasonable number to interview,” Barrett said. “But if we got 15, like we did last time, that was not productive. We made a good choice out of it, but it was not the best of environments to do the interviews.
Once applications are in, the board will decide during a planning retreat Feb. 8 if a multi-part process is necessary to winnow the candidate pool. A second round of interviewing could involve unscripted questions from the board, with a final decision scheduled for Feb 18.
Board members want the process to be as transparent as possible.
“I think that the more public this whole process is, that’s a healthier way to do it in my opinion, to provide that transparency,” said Pat Heinrich.
Andrew Davidson agreed, saying he’d prefer the board to interview and identify finalists during a single meeting. “I just think if we do it in two sessions, we know what will happen,” he said. “There will be back-channeling. It will get decided in the back channels. And I’d rather see it get decided in open session.”
Barrett warned the board, “It’s not always easy to do it that way, talking about people and their qualifications, but absolutely, that’s what we’re signed up for.”
Brownstein’s replacement will serve on the board until 2017.
Jan. 25 - Advertise board opening and process for appointment.
Feb. 2 - Orientation session for potential applicants at Lincoln Center.
Feb. 5 - Deadline for applications to be emailed or delivered to Superintendent’s Office at Lincoln Center by noon.
Feb. 8 - Board will review applications and finalize the interview process based on the number of applicants.
Feb. 18 - Board vote to select replacement to be held at Lincoln Center at 7 p.m.
March 3 - Swearing-in of the appointee.