Board of Education members agreed Thursday night to use the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) to help find the district's new superintendent, but with concern over a short window of time to do so.
The school board spent about an hour and a half during a special meeting Thursday discussing a process that will include posting the job for potential applicants, inviting the community to participate in a criteria survey, interviews and even site visits to potential candidates' current districts.
If a new superintendent is to be hired this school year, he or she would have to be selected by May 31.
Board President John Carmody said several times during the meeting that he is concerned about the tight timeline.
"I think the thing for us is we're all terrified that if we rush through this process and we're sitting around six months from now going, 'holy cow, we've made another mistake,'" he said.
Dawn Miller, IASB executive search consultant, said the agency will peruse resumes and select the best five to seven candidates based on criteria set by the board, as well as qualifications based on the community survey.
However, she noted, if the board doesn't "fall in love" with any of the candidates by the deadline, the process would start over again in the summer -- at no extra cost.
"You have to trust your heart and your head," Miller added, gesturing toward her own head and heart. "And all seven of you don't agree that's the best person for the job, you shouldn't hire them."
After the meeting, Miller said the community survey part of the process is essential and she looks forward to the public participation.
"I think it's very important that you have a survey out there for the public and the staff because we need their input," she said.
In the event the school board cannot agree on a candidate, would be asked to stay on for another 100 days next school year, Carmody said. Soustek indicated he would accept if he is asked to stay on for another 100-day interim term.
"I think, as a board, we want to find somebody who is a long-term solution," Carmody said. "We don't want to have somebody to come in and after six or nine months, there are a whole lot of issues and we're running into more problems."
Though the board will move forward with the contract, members Mary Bragg and Tom Cunninghan said they would be in favor of the board spearheading the hiring process themselves if there were more time. Bragg said debating and discussing the applicants "really opens your eyes to the candidates that are out there."
However, that idea was nixed fairly quickly.
"With this crunch time, we can't go through the resumes on our own," Carmody pointed out.
Member Joseph LaMargo said he thinks IASB's involvement lends expertise and credibility to the process.
"Let them do the vetting and if we don't like [the candidates] we tell them no and we want another pool of candidates," LaMargo said. "It's as simple as that... I'm sorry but I don't have the faith in this board to go through it, I'm sorry. I just don't have the faith in this board."
"Why would you say that?" asked Cunningham.
"Because I'm looking at things that have happened over the last six months," LaMargo responded.
"I'm sorry, I'd give you more credit than that," Cunningham said.
The $8,000 contract to pay for the search assistance will be voted on at another special meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30.