Georgia law allows school boards to keep the search process private, but the board must vote in public to hire a superintendent.
Board chairman Jason Esteves said “it’s incredibly important” the board maintain confidentiality once it starts receiving applications.
“Some people get nervous, and when they feel like their name is about to be released, they back out,” he said.
While the board should post a public notice when it meets to interview candidates, attorney Glenn Brock said steps can be taken to keep the candidates’ identities secret. He said out-of-town candidates can be picked up at a hotel and taken via the service elevator to a secured conference room at the law office where the board can conduct interviews.
“It can get tricky,” he said. “I’ll tell you that we’ve not had a breach so far.”
Several board members expressed interest in selecting a small group of parents, teachers, students and others to participate in confidential interviews with candidates and provide feedback to the board. But board members stressed they would make the final decision.
“Community members become concerned when they feel like there’s an elite group of people, a search committee, that is substituting their judgment for that of the board,” Esteves said.
The board also plans to look for a search firm to help.
The APS search that led to hiring Carstarphen in 2014 was one of the most expensive superintendent searches launched by a metro Atlanta district in the last decade.
The district had previously suspended a 2011 search, for which it had signed a not-to-exceed contract of $60,000 with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates and instead hired an interim superintendent to repair the system after a major cheating scandal.
A couple of years later, the school board chose PROACT Search to assist with a search for a permanent leader. The board then fired that firm out of concern it wouldn’t attract a top candidate. APS paid the dismissed firm about $10,000.
Officials then selected search experts from BoardWalk Consulting and Diversified Search to continue the work, paying out another $183,000 to finish the job.
Story so far
The Atlanta school board announced Sept. 9 that it would not renew Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s contract when it expires June 30. Interviews with individual board members revealed five board members opposed an extension and three supported it. The board discussed the search process Friday, including looking for a search firm and a timeline to hire a new superintendent by July 1.