The Searcy School District will hold a community meeting Jan. 19 to get input on qualities to look for in its next superintendent.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the high school’s Performing Arts Center, 301 N. Ella St.

Superintendent Diane Barrett will be retiring June 30 after 11 years in the role and the School Board hired McPherson and Jacobson LLC Executive Recruitment and Development to assist in finding her replacement.

Bobby Lester and Dr. Ken James are the consultants handling the search. Lester was also a consultant when the district hired Barrett, and McPherson and Jacobson also was used by the Riverview School Board in hiring Stan Stratton last year.

Lester and James recently gave the Searcy School Board a calendar timeline for the search and said they will be giving 20-minute updates during upcoming regular School Board meetings.

An early April hire date has been discussed and March 1 is being targeted as the closing date for applications. The board agreed to have the position posted on the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators website, the Arkansas School Board Association website and the website of the search firm, which has a national reach.

James said he and Lester will need at least a two-week period after the closing date for applications to contact candidates and have them make videos of themselves to present to the board when the selection process takes place.

The board members were asked to provide key community members’ names so they could be invited to take part in a community stakeholders meeting that the board members are advised not to attend. The Performing Arts Center was chosen because a large place was needed for social distancing since the meeting is open to the community.

The stakeholders will consist of an administrative group, a certified group, a classified group, a student group and a community group. The community group will meet at night and the other groups will meet during the day. The groups will be made up of 11 to 12 people, according to James, who said he would meet with Betsy Bailey, the point of conduct, to set those groups up.

By Jan. 27, the board will have decided on the competitive package for the next superintendent, James said. According to James, a competitive salary for the job would be $180,000 to $190,000. Barrett’s salary is $169,422.

On Feb. 24, James and Lester will update the board on anything new concerning the search.

March 17 will be the “money meeting, rubber-meets-the-road time,” according to James, who said this will be the meeting where he and Lester will present the candidates, the recommended list of finalists, to the School Board. In a closed session, the board members will view videos of the finalists, responding to questions. The board will rate the finalists based on their answers concerning the criteria they have agreed to look for in a candidate.

Interviews with finalists will start the week after spring break, March 29 and go through April 1. The interview will last the whole day and most of the evening for the candidates. They will start their day around 8 a.m. and it will end with dinner and then a two-hour interview with the School Board.

April 1 or 2 will be the date the board selects their choice for the new superintendent, James said.

School Board member Philip Williams recalled when Diane Barrett was hired, the board decided to hire her that night.

Criteria for the next superintendent also was discussed last week.

Board member Dr. Brent Blakely said it would be important that the new superintendent understand managing finances of schools. Board member Jimmy Simpson said he thought it was important to have a STEM-minded person who knows the importance of college-type learning. Board President Dr. Michael Liles said he thinks having a “student-centered” superintendent is important. School board member Dr. Chad Joice said the new superintendent should be a visible person in the building, attending events, such as sports, and taking an interest in what was going on in the schools. Blakely also mentioned the importance of construction management for projects such as an arena.

James noted that some candidates will wait until the last minute to apply, maybe even up until midnight of the deadline since they don’t it to get out too soon that they are applying.

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