South Middleton School District

An aerial view of Boiling Springs High School and its facilities.

Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

The South Middleton School Board will reopen its search for a new superintendent after it was unable to reach an agreement with an unnamed candidate for the position.

The board-as-a-whole posted a statement Friday, Nov. 10, on the district website stating the search will be expanded from the expedited search it had launched in July.

The board had hoped to announce a selection in early November, according to the statement. It said a special section will be set up on the website to keep the public updated on the progress.

It has been almost four months since Al Moyer announced in mid-July he would step down as 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 an expedited search for candidates.

On Aug. 21, school board president Michael Berk outlined a schedule that called for all applications to be submitted by early September, with the first round of interviews planned for the week of Sept. 11 and the second round the week of Sept. 25.

The goal in late August was to name a new superintendent in October, but no action was taken by board members at the Oct. 2, Oct. 16 or Nov. 6 board meetings. The board on Aug. 21 appointed Bruce Deveney acting superintendent until a permanent replacement could be hired. Deveney is a former superintendent of the East Pennsboro Area School District.

Though the Nov. 10 statement mentioned that Deveney will continue to serve as acting superintendent, there was no mention of what role, if any, Templeton Advantage would play in an expanded search.

“We may or may not,” Berk said Friday when asked if the board would retain the company’s services. “The board is going to look at all the different options on how the search will be conducted and by whom.”

“Our search will be similar in scope and timing to a more traditional search,” the online statement reads. “The board anticipates expanding the advertising of the position and using a process that will include a thorough evaluation of candidates.”

While the expedited search focused on parts of Pennsylvania, the expanded search will try to reach out across the entire state and to other areas including possibly Maryland, Berk said. “We want to make sure we cover a larger geographic area.”

By “more traditional search,” the board means a process involving many more steps over an extended period of time, including the prospect of at least three rounds of interviews, Berk said. He added the board plans to meet in executive session Nov. 20 to discuss its options and to develop ways of gathering input from stakeholders including staff, faculty, parents and community members.

State law allows school boards to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors in executive session. However, any decision to hire a person would need to be made during a public meeting.

The current board will start to brief incoming board members on the search and will include them in the Nov. 20 executive session discussions, Berk said. “They are going to be a part of that decision-making process.”

One-third of the current nine-member school board will leave office at the end of November. Incumbents Tom Merlie, Robert Winters and Scott Witwer decided not to run for reelection. Only incumbent Stacey Knavel ran for and won reelection.

Merlie, Winters and Witwer will be replaced by Jon Still, John Greenbaum and Denise MacIvor. They will be sworn in as new board members at the Dec. 4 reorganization meeting.

Meanwhile, Deveney has agreed to continue to serve as acting superintendent until a permanent replacement is named, Berk said. “The board has been extremely pleased with the work that he has done.”

Unlike four years ago, when Moyer was in the running for superintendent, the board has been quiet up to this time on the current superintendent search. The board in late June 2013 appointed Moyer the superintendent following a much more open process that included an early June town hall meeting in which the public could ask contenders questions.

The precise format of the reopened, expanded search has yet to discussed and determined.

“We look forward to bringing an outstanding educational leader to South Middleton who will best serve the interests of our students and staff,” the online statement reads. “Selecting a superintendent is one of the most important decisions the board will make; we will take the time necessary to select the best candidate.”

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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News Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.

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