DeKalb Schools: Nearly 70 apply to be district’s superintendent

Nearly 70 people applied to become the next DeKalb County School District superintendent, according to information from the search firm charged with finding the district's next leader.

Little else was said about the search, including whether all 68 candidates remain in the running. Georgia law dictates that the search can be confidential, should that be the will of a school board. That means the public may never know who had interest, save for the finalists who will be named.

In many recent cases, including the DeKalb County School District’s most recent search, districts have announced single finalists.

BWP & Associates presented preliminary information about the search progress to the DeKalb County Board of Education on Jan. 8. Some information from that meeting was shared a week later, after several requests by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The 68 applicants is higher than what is normally seen in candidate pool information, according to a statement from Porter Novelli, the public relations firm hired by the district.

“The high number of qualified applicants affirms the progress made by the DeKalb County School District and suggests that the superintendent position is one of the most sought after in the country,” the district said in the statement.

Search firm officials have said the confidential process allows for candidates who likely would not have applied to a more public search. Current Fulton County Superintendent Mike Looney said recently that he likely would have skipped applying for the Fulton vacancy, even after being asked to do so, were it not for the confidentiality ensured. Looney, who came to the district late last spring, already is receiving praise for his work from within the schools and the surrounding community.

“What we have to do also is protect the candidates,” Butch Felkner, director of the executive search division for the Texas Association of School Boards, said about search confidentiality. “Only one [person] is going to get the job. Many times, in local communities, when everything is going well in a community and you know men and women may be looking for an advancement in their career. They seek another position that seems to be a good opportunity for them. If they don’t get it, and their name’s been put out there, it could cause — and many times does cause — friction back in your home town.

“It could make it uncomfortable when they return if they didn’t get the job.”

The district's last confidential search produced former Superintendent Steve Green as its sole finalist in 2015. Green announced in May 2019 that he intended to leave at the end of the current school year. Instead, he and the board agreed to part ways in November.

The application period for the position ended last month. The schedule called for the board to begin interviewing candidates this month and select a finalist — or finalists — next month, and to negotiate a contract and starting date for its new leader.

The Porter Novelli statement did not say whether that was still the plan.