Trustees to narrow field of candidates
Now that the deadline for applications is past, the Port Aransas Independent School District Board of Trustees can begin the process of narrowing its list of candidates for superintendent down to the most qualified few.
The most qualified few will be interviewed in person by trustees. But Rick Adams, president of the board of trustees, said the board won't release the names of most of those candidates.
Section 552.126 of the Texas Open Meetings Act states that trustees "must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position (of superintendent) at least 21 days before the date of the meeting at which a final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the person."
Adams said the board will release only one name because trustees will end up with only one person they will categorize as a finalist - the person to whom trustees will offer the job of superintendent.
The South Jetty on Tuesday, Oct. 28, submitted a formal, written request to the board of trustees, in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, to release the names of the finalists that the board selects to interview in person for the superintendent position.
Adams said the board won't publicly release the names of other interviewed candidates partly as a matter of professional courtesy to applicants.
"Think of the repercussions when (another school district's) board hears that their superintendent has been interviewing," Adams said. "That forever changes the relationship between a board and a superintendent."
If candidates know their names might be made public, PAISD likely would not end up with as many qualified candidates applying for the position, Adams said.
Asked for comment, Texas Press Association President Roy Robinson said, "My immediate reaction is, school boards in all communities have an obligation to the taxpayers of the school district to disclose reasons for their selection of administrative personnel.
"The issue becomes more critical, from my view, in smaller communities, where the school district is the focal point of community activities," said Robinson, who also is vice president and publisher of Graham Newspapers Inc., which includes 12 newspapers and four radio stations. "Reasons used to withhold identities of finalists for superintendent positions do not weigh well in the argument against disclosure."
Asked for comment, Aransas County Independent School District Superintendent Joseph Patek said the school board should not reveal the names of any candidates except for a lone finalist.
Patek, who said he has not applied for the Port Aransas job, said a superintendent could face negative repercussions if local trustees learn that he or she has been interviewing for a job at another district.
"It could weaken a superintendent's standing in his community," Patek said, emphasizing that he only was stating his opinion on the matter. "As superintendent, your standing in the community and the support you have in the community is so important."
The PAISD superintendent's job has been open since Billy Wiggins left the job in August to take the superintendent's position in Salado, north of Austin.
The deadline for applying for the Port Aransas superintendent's position was Friday, Oct. 24. The school board has hired a contractor, Texas School Solutions, to sift through the applicants and decide how they should be roughly ranked, so trustees will have an idea of which candidates they should interview for the job.
Carol Moffett, president of Texas School Solutions, would not say this week how many candidates had applied for the position. She said she plans to meet with trustees in November and make a report to them before speaking very much, publicly, about results of the search.
"I am busy organizing the applications and learning more about each candidate," Moffett wrote in response to an e-mail from the South Jetty. "To that end, I am conducting screening interviews with promising candidates."
In an Oct. 7 interview, Moffett said 45 to 50 people had applied. Several weeks before that, she said she wouldn't be surprised if about 100 people would end up applying by the time of the deadline.
Adams said he expects Moffett to split the candidates into three groups. Group A will be candidates who seem to fit a profile that the school board has developed to describe the kind of person trustees and the community want to hire, he said.
Group B will be made up of candidates who are good but "just missed" the cut to make Group A, Adams said. Group C will be applicants who did not make it as far as Group B for any number of reasons, he said.
The school board is scheduled to meet with Moffett to see the lists she has compiled on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. Trustees will meet in closed session because superintendent candidates will be discussed, said Wayne Johnson, acting superintendent of PAISD. State law allows school boards to meet in closed session when discussing personnel issues.
It's possible that a committee of trustees or the full board will take a look at names on the B and C lists and have one or more of those candidates moved onto the A list, Adams said.
Adams said he is hoping that, by Sunday, trustees will be able to direct Moffett to schedule school board interviews with an estimated three to five top candidates. Johnson said he expects the interviews to take place Nov. 13, 14 and 15.
Trustees then will narrow the field even more. They likely will then ask the top two or three candidates to come back for second interviews on Nov. 17 and possibly the next day, Johnson said, adding that trustees will ask only one candidate to come back for a second interview during that two-day period if the candidate seems far better than the rest.
Johnson said he expects trustees to vote on whom to hire on Nov. 18 or during the board's regular meeting on Nov. 20. The vote won't make it a done deal, however. State law prevents school districts from officially offering contracts to prospective superintendents for 21 days after a board names a candidate as the sole finalist.