2008-11-20 / Front Page

School chief

Two candidates rise to top of field
BY DAN PARKER SOUTH JETTY REPORTER

STAFF PHOITO BY DAN PARKER Superintendent search From left, Port Aransas school board members Ken Dunton, Rick Adams, Margaret Price and Ann Appling prepare to begin a meeting on Monday, Nov. 17, at the school district's administration building. Immediately after starting the meeting, trustees went into closed session to discuss hiring someone to fill the superintendent's slot. STAFF PHOITO BY DAN PARKER Superintendent search From left, Port Aransas school board members Ken Dunton, Rick Adams, Margaret Price and Ann Appling prepare to begin a meeting on Monday, Nov. 17, at the school district's administration building. Immediately after starting the meeting, trustees went into closed session to discuss hiring someone to fill the superintendent's slot. Two candidates have floated to the top in the search for a new superintendent of Mustang Island schools, according to Rick Adams, president of the Port Aransas Independent School District Board of Trustees.

In a mid-afternoon interview Tuesday, Nov. 18, Adams declined to name the candidates; however, he said it was possible that trustees officially would name the two after a board meeting that night - but only if the candidates agree to have their names made public.

Adams said the board was set to vote to name a lone finalist possibly during meetings scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, Nov. 19 or 20. (Due to newspaper deadlines, results of those votes could not be obtained in time for the current print edition of the South Jetty. Updates on the superintendent search will be posted on the newspaper's Web site, www.portasouthjetty.com.)

Trustees have been searching for a new superintendent since August, when then-superintendent Billy Wiggins accepted a superintendent's position in Salado, about 40 miles north of Austin.

In efforts to find a new superintendent, the school board hired a search firm, Texas School Solutions, and PAISD ended up getting more than 60 applications for the slot.

The school board interviewed six people whom trustees considered to be the top applicants. The interviews took place on Nov. 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 during sessions that were closed to the public.

State law allows school boards to discuss personnel matters during closed sessions. Any vote on who to name as a finalist or finalists must be conducted in open session.

"I think we've got some ideal candidates," Adams said. "I think the board is pretty much in agreement that we've got several now we would be comfortable in turning the keys over to. Obviously, we've got to get to a consensus on the best person."

The South Jetty has asked the Board of Trustees to release the names of the finalists that the board selects to interview in person. 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.

The law gives trustees the option of naming just one finalist or several finalists. All of the interviewed candidates could be considered finalists, and the South Jetty has asked the board to name them.

Adams initially responded by saying trustees would comply with the law but would name only one finalist - the person to whom the job is offered.

Adams has said the board would not release most interviewed candidates' names partly as a professional courtesy to applicants. If school boards where candidates serve learn that they are applying for other jobs, Adams said, it could sour relationships. If potential candidates know their names will be made public, they will be less likely to apply for a superintendent's position, reducing the pool of qualified applicants for the Port Aransas job, Adams said.

The South Jetty has argued in editorials that the public's need to know outweighs the board's arguments for keeping the interviewed candidates' names secret.

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