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As a renewed search for a superintendent gathers momentum, the public is invited to a community focus group discussion Jan. 16 to express their views on the direction of the South Middleton School District.

Professional search consultant Tom Templeton will facilitate the discussion scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. in the Brenneman Auditorium of Boiling Springs High School.

The community meeting will be an extension of focus group discussions Templeton will have with faculty, staff and students earlier that day, board president Randy Varner said.

The purpose of the Tuesday night event is to hear public comment on the strengths and challenges facing the school district. The intent is to review issues that need to be addressed in the next year and beyond and to determine what critical skills will be needed in the next superintendent.

The board reopened its search for a superintendent in early November after it was unable to reach an agreement with an unnamed candidate for the position.

An expedited search the board launched in July came after Al Moyer announced his plan to step down as the district superintendent effective Aug. 18.

A board majority on Aug. 7 agreed to pay Templeton Advantage of Newport a maximum fee of $11,750 to conduct that expedited search.

The board had hoped to announce a selection in November, but that fell through prompting the renewed search that will cover a broader area beyond parts of Pennsylvania.

The board this Tuesday approved an addendum to the agreement it had with Templeton for additional search services that will include the focus group discussions and at least two rounds of interviews with applicants.

Because Templeton and the school board view the renewed search as an extension of the initial expedited search, there will be no additional fee beyond the costs of advertising the position across a broader geographic area, Varner said.

He said Templeton already has given the job position a regional and national reach by posting the vacancy on professional websites through the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

“Tom Templeton is casting a wide net,” Varner said. “We expect to have all the applications in by the end of this month. We hope to start interviewing in mid-February. A second round of interviews will happen in late February and early March.”

The goal is to have a new superintendent in place before July 1, which is the start of the 2018-19 school year, Varner said. He said that, ideally, the board would like to name a successor much earlier than that to give the new person an opportunity to train under acting Superintendent Bruce Deveney.

The board in late June 2013 appointed Al Moyer the superintendent following an open process that included an early June town hall meeting in which the public could ask the final contenders direct questions.

“We will remain flexible to that kind of idea, but we are not going to set that up ahead of time,” Varner said. He said much will depend on what the “landscape” looks like.

“When you are talking about a superintendent search, we have big concerns for confidentiality,” Varner said. “A lot of times the candidates do not want it to be known that they are looking.”

So far, South Middleton School District has made two payments to Templeton Advantage for work connected with the initial expedited search. Under the agreement addendum, two additional payments of $2,625 each will be made for services rendered during the renewed search process.

The first payment will be made within 15 business days of the school district receiving an invoice from Templeton. The second payment will be made after the next superintendent has been selected and within 15 business days after the district receives the second invoice.

The addendum includes the possibility of additional limited costs for travel expenses for the final candidates.

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