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School board discusses process for hiring superintendent

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board envisions a lengthy and deliberate process to replace retiring Superintendent Cindy Stevenson.

At last Thursday’s study session, the board discussed the process for selecting a new leader for Colorado’s second largest school district. It will take six weeks just to find the professional search firm that will identify top candidates for the job.

Stevenson announced her retirement in November, shortly after three new members were elected to the board; her last day will be June 30.

The process

The district will send requests for proposals to professional search firms, and a committee will be formed to evaluate the proposals, including the five school board members and Lorie Gillis, Jeffco’s chief financial officer. Board member John Newkirk suggested hearing from school districts that have recently hired new superintendents.

“It’d be nice to get an idea of what we’re looking at,” Newkirk said. “How long did it take? Which search firm was used?”

The board decided it would be best to have RFPs sent out by the end of the month. The committee would then review responses by Feb. 5. The top firms will be interviewed Feb. 14, and a contract with the final search firm would be in place on Feb. 24.

After the timeline was in place, the board members discussed what they would like to see in a search firm.

“I think a firm should be creative and flexible,” said board President Ken Witt. “(The firm) should be competitive and focused on positive leadership. (Jeffco is) creative, innovative and experienced. I think these words need to be in the RFP.”

All board members agreed they want a firm that is professional and experienced.

New board attorney

The board discussed agendas for future meetings and study sessions. Board member Lesley Dahlkemper suggested scheduling a time for the board to have a public discussion about the board’s new attorney, Brad Miller.

The board voted 3-2 to hire Miller, of Miller Sparks LLC, at its Dec. 12 meeting. Jill Fellman and Dahlkemper, who voted against hiring the Colorado Springs-based attorney, thought the decision was rushed and were concerned about what they termed inadequate public discussion about the hire.

“I think we should work in a few minutes at our board session Feb. 6 to discuss our hiring,” Dahlkemper said last Thursday. “Having that public dialogue is so important to discuss Mr. Miller’s role and scope of work.”

Witt disagreed.

“I appreciate your desire (to want to discuss Miller), but the decision has been made,” Witt said.

“I think what is unfortunate is all the (media) coverage that has happened,” Dahlkemper said. “It’s distracting from the hard and good work that each of us want to focus on.”

Witt said adding an agenda item to discuss the board’s new attorney would lead to more distractions.

“If you’d like to make a motion to add it to an agenda, feel free,” Witt said.

“When would you like that motion?” Fellman asked.

“At the next meeting,” Witt said.

The next Jeffco school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in the auditorium at Arvada High School, 7951 W. 65th Ave.

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.