DeKalb County school board hires firm for superintendent search

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

The DeKalb County Board of Education took the first step on Monday to finding a permanent superintendent, agreeing to spend up to $20,000 on an organization to conduct the search process.

Interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley currently leads the state’s third-largest district, after the school board fired Cheryl Watson-Harris from the top job in a split vote in April. Watson-Harris had served in the role for less than two years. The district has had seven leaders since 2010.

Now, DeKalb will work with the Georgia School Boards Association to find a permanent leader.

The process will take roughly six months, representatives from the organization said at a board meeting on Monday, meaning the district could have a new superintendent by the spring.

Hiring a permanent leader is “likely the most important task you have as a board,” said Sam King, the director of superintendent search services for the Georgia School Boards Association.

The association will help the board create a job description and decide what kind of candidate it’s looking for, gather community input, advertise the position and find qualified candidates, evaluate applications, and schedule and facilitate interviews. The association has facilitated more than 300 search processes for Georgia school districts in 35 years — including recent searches in Decatur and Gwinnett County.

Details about candidates will be confidential until the board is ready to announce one or more finalists.

Board member Joyce Morley opposed hiring the organization. She’s maintained that after a period of turnover, she’d like to see someone in the position for a while.

“If it was any other search firm I would say the same thing,” she said. “It’s a rush with this board to constantly bring in someone new without seeing what you already have.”

Over the summer, the board expressed interest in having a permanent leader in place by the time Tinsley’s contract expires in April.

Tinsley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an August interview that she is focusing on the district’s immediate needs — but “it’s not a no” when it comes to whether she is interested in the permanent job.

Tinsley is a former DeKalb deputy superintendent. She came out of retirement for the interim position.