Who will become interim superintendent of Wake County schools?

Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill, center, on June, 18, 2013. Merrill will retire Feb. 1, 2018.
Wake County schools Superintendent Jim Merrill, center, on June, 18, 2013. Merrill will retire Feb. 1, 2018.

The search is on for a new superintendent of the Wake County school system, but an interim leader will likely have to step in.

The school board voted Tuesday to hire the N.C. School Boards Association to help find a new leader of the nation’s 15th largest school district. The group began advertising for the job Wednesday, and the search is expected to take four to six months, said Allison Schafer, director of policy and legal counsel for the association.

Applications are due Jan. 30, and the board will likely interview seven to 10 candidates in March before narrowing the list to three finalists. A new superintendent could be named in early April and start the job by July 1, Schafer said.

Jim Merrill, 67, will retire Feb. 1 after four years as superintendent.

The school board will have to appoint an interim superintendent for the five-month period before a new superintendent is in place. That’s what happened when the sboard fired superintendent Tony Tata in September 2012.

At that time, the school board named Stephen Gainey as interim superintendent, but he left to become superintendent of Randolph County Schools before Merrill arrived. Cathy Moore, who now serves as Wake’s deputy superintendent for academic advancement, then became interim superintendent.

School board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler said Wednesday the board hadn’t yet decided who the interim superintendent might be.

“We actually haven’t even decided if we’re doing an inside or outside interim (superintendent),” she said.

Johnson-Hostler pointed out that most of the current board members weren’t around for the last superintendent search in 2012. Keith Sutton, Jim Martin and Christine Kushner were the only ones on the board when Tata was fired.

Wake will pay the N.C. School Boards Association $18,500 to conduct the search, with a $15,000 maximum budget for expenses such as advertising for the position and candidate lodging and meal costs. The association will also help the board survey the community and Wake schools staff to learn what they consider important in a superintendent.

Merrill announced his retirement Nov. 21. After four years in the role, he now has an annual salary of about $303,000.

He was named N.C. Superintendent of the Year in 2016, his third time being named a state’s top educator.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935; Twitter: @pressleybaird