The search for a new superintendent for Carlisle Area School District will probably not start until after the Nov. 7 general election, school board president Paula Bussard said Thursday.
Because the race is competitive, the outcome of election night could change the make-up of the board, Bussard said. There are six candidates vying for four open four-year seats.
The candidates include incumbent board members Rick Coplen, Brian Guillaume, Anne Lauritzen and Deborah Sweaney. They are being challenged by Kitzi Chappelle and Julie Lesman.
Whoever is elected from among the six candidates will be sworn in as board members in early December. Incumbent Fred Baldwin is running unopposed for a two-year seat on the school board.
Bussard was unable to specify how soon after the election the board would be in a position to make an announcement on how the search for a new superintendent will proceed. The stated goal is to appoint a new chief executive by July 1 — the start of the 2018-2019 year.
The board has appointed Christina Spielbauer to serve as acting superintendent through the current school year which ends June 30, 2018. She was the assistant superintendent under John Friend who retired as the district’s chief executive this past June.
In late July, Bussard asked Coplen and Lauritzen to review and update the job description of district superintendent as the first step in the process to find a permanent replacement for Friend.
Coplen and Lauritzen reviewed job duties, qualifications and expectations that had been in effect since the board had promoted Friend from assistant superintendent to chief executive in March 2010.
An updated job description went before the board-as-a-whole during a Sept. 14 committee meeting. The description was then revised and brought before the board for a vote this past Thursday.
The board voted 8-0 to accept the update and immediately make it the policy of the district. By the same margin, the board Thursday approved a list of 2017-2018 goals for Spielbauer who now has to abide by the language in the job description update. Board vice-president Linda Manning was absent from Thursday’s meeting.
“We have done all of our due diligent work,” Bussard said Thursday, referring to board approval of the update. She added the revamped job description will be foundational to the superintendent search.
Prior to the vote, Coplen briefed the public on the highlights of the updated job description. He called it a statement of board and district values and what is important to the education philosophy of the Carlisle area. Coplen added the update is not meant to be a commentary on the current or previous administration, but a look at future expectations.
“We’re not telling the superintendent what to do,” Coplen said. Instead the update encourages a process where the chief executive takes on the role of leader of a culture of “community collaboration”, “safety and civil behavior” and “continuous learning, experimentation, innovation, co-creation and collaborative problem solving.”
“When you say ‘a leader of a culture’ — that is much more challenging than, ‘Here is just a checklist,’” Coplen said. “It says ‘Here is a culture that we expect everybody to buy into’ and, in some cases, it might require mindset changes.”
He elaborated further on the update after the meeting. Coplen described the list of qualifications under the old job description as “sparse” and only occupying three-quarters of a page of text.
The update not only expands the list of qualifications, but places each in one of three categories — “knowledge”, “skills” and “attributes” — in a format similar to what is in use by the military and federal government.
“It’s what I’m accustomed to,” said Coplen, a retired Army officer.
New qualifications include a preference, but a requirement, for a doctorate degree and proof that a superintendent candidate has at least five to 10 years of progressively increasing responsibility in the field of public education.
What was important to Anne Lauritzen was the inclusion of language requiring the superintendent to seek out and encourage the input of what she called people on the front-line – teachers and school staff members.
They are more in touch with the reality of the classroom, Lauritzen said. She added it was also important to include in the update language that emphasizes the development of student college and career preparation initiatives.
This is in keeping with new standards coming down from the state Department of Education under Future Ready PA where school districts will be assessed and rated on their ability to prepare students for the future.