October 3, 2019 10:21:06 AM
Let's get it right the first time.
Between now and the end of the year, the Lowndes County School District Board of Trustees will do something it has never done before: select a superintendent of schools.
Unlike the city school districts in Columbus and Starkville, the LCSD has featured an elected superintendent. But in 2016, just as current LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright was beginning his second four-year term, the Mississippi Legislature passed legislation requiring all public school districts to have superintendents appointed by the school board.
The rational behind the new law was that through the appointment process, districts would be able to attract candidates from a larger, better qualified pool of candidates.
With Wright's term ending on Dec. 31, the LCSD is well along in its transition to appointing its first superintendent.
So far, there have been no apparent missteps.
The LCSD has turned to the Mississippi School Boards Association to compile a list of qualified candidates just as CMSD has previously.
Monday, the LCSD board announced that the MSBA had selected a pool of 15 qualified candidates. Although no names were revealed, we do know that Wright, along with another LCSD employee, is among the group and that the group includes candidates from Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The LCSD will now determine which of the 15 candidates it wants to interview and, at some point, will select any unspecified number of finalists.
When the search reaches that stage, we strongly suggest that the district make the finalists available to the public through a public forum.
The community should have the opportunity to listen to the candidates, ask questions and, perhaps, offer their recommendations to the board. That was the formula CMSD followed in its search two years ago. The forum was well-attended and residents left the meeting feeling like they were included in the process. This is especially important for LCSD to consider since they are transitioning from electing to appointing their superintendent.
This search has already drawn significant interest in the community. In one sense, it is a referendum on Wright, who's been elected twice by comfortable margins and leads a high-performing district. Wright clearly has a base of support, which makes holding a forum -- presuming Wright is among the finalists -- even more important. An openness with the public might help diffuse any ill will that might accompany the board's decision, regardless of who they select.
Such a forum doesn't dilute the board's authority or responsibility. The choice belongs to the board and the board alone. Another benefit of holding a forum does invest the community in the process, which is no small benefit.
The district has a perfect venue for a forum, too. The LCSD's new career tech center on Lehmberg Road is centrally located in the district and has a large, comfortable auditorium that could easily accommodate the event.
Getting it right the first time is certainly something the LCSD board hopes to achieve in selecting a superintendent.
No small part of that effort includes making sure the community has the opportunity to learn about the finalists for the job.
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