How to Evaluate Superintendent Candidates

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Geo

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May 26, 2011, 6:22:33 PM5/26/11
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If you watch the Osceola School Board workshop held Tuesday morning May 17,
2011, you will see school board members expressing their opinions about the
superintendent candidates they were tasked with evaluating.

These school board members collectively earn about $175,000 per year for
these "part-time" jobs. In all fairness, I suspect that some of these folks
spend more than 20 hours per week on this activity. But then again, this
salary does exceed the median income for five full-time employees in this
country.

As voting citizens, we expect that while these folks are working on school
board matters (when not otherwise working at their regular full-time jobs)
they are fulfilling their responsibilities with utmost care.

I have no doubt that most people reading this will agree that the single
most important duty of any school board member is the selection of a
superintendent. The most important responsibility of these elected and paid
school board officials is their application of due diligence during these
rare superintendent selection proceedings. Anything less would be a
violation of the public trust. This is true whether these school board
members choose to acknowledge this or not.

The term "due diligence" is sometimes bandied about in casual conversation,
but it really does mean something important. This is especially true in the
context of selecting a person to fill a high office under close public
scrutiny, like a superintendent, one of the highest paid positions in
Osceola County.

To better understand the recent superintendent search process that
transpired in Osceola County, I think that we need to have a common
understanding of the term "due diligence" and what it really means in this
context.

Here is the general definition of the term (from "Merriam-Webster"):

due diligence noun

1: the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid
harm to other persons or their property

2: research and analysis of a company or organization
done in preparation for a business transaction (as a
corporate merger or purchase of securities)

Of course, the "research and analysis" is not about a company, but rather
it's about an individual, a human being who has applied for the position of
superintendent. Likewise, in this case the "business transaction" is the
hiring of the applicant to fill the position.

What is especially important is "the care that a reasonable person
exercises" and the avoidance of "harm to other persons".

There are two distinct groups of people who could potentially be harmed by a
lack of due diligence in this case: the children of Osceola County and the
superintendent candidates themselves.

How can our children be harmed? They can be harmed by not having the benefit
of the best possible leadership of our schools.

How can the superintendent candidates be harmed? They can be harmed by false
or misleading allegations used as rationale for non-selection.

How should due diligence be applied to avoid such potential harm? This is
actually fairly straight forward since the hiring of a superintendent is
similar to the hiring of anyone else, with one exception. While googling,
searching about people "not in the public eye" will typically lead to few
meaningful results. Whereas googling for experienced superintendents can
often produce copious volumes of google hearsay (see
http://tinyurl.com/3sw6xmr ).

So, what are the steps necessary to properly evaluate a superintendent
candidate? What is the minimum effort necessary to be confident that due
diligence has been applied? What constitutes a "good faith" effort at due
diligence?

Here is what I would do. Anyone else is free to comment, offer objections or
alternatives.

Steps to Properly Evaluate a Superintendent Candidate
-----------------------------------------------------

1) Read the candidate's resume for minimum qualifications.

2) Use search engines like Google to find whatever information may be
available on the candidate (ie. gather the "google hearsay").

3) Ask general questions of the candidate by phone and by email.

4) Assuming negative hearsay was found, contact the candidate by phone or by
email again to ask pointed questions about the hearsay. Information supplied
by the candidate during the general questioning may be helpful.

5) Call the candidate's references to ask pointed questions about the
negative hearsay (ie. verify what the candidate told you). Take the
opportunity to tease out any positive feedback about the candidate.

6) Call non-references of the candidate (ie. people who should personally
know the candidate, but who were not listed as references; in this context,
school board members or school district employees would be a good choice) to
ask the same pointed questions about the negative hearsay (ie. verify what
the candidate and the references told you). Take the opportunity to tease
out any positive feedback about the candidate.

I think it is safe to conclude that due diligence was not applied if only
half of these steps were completed.

Think of it this way. If your children performed only half of a homework
assignment, or half of a major school project, what grade would they get?
They'd get an "F", and that's exactly what they would have earned.

Suppose our school board members did half (or less than half) of the above
evaluation steps, even for only one of the recent superintendent candidates?
Would they have fulfilled the awesome responsibility entrusted to them by
their electorate? Would they have earned our confidence? Would they have
earned their pay? Or would they have earned a well deserved "F" for poor
performance?

It is my contention that none of the current Osceola School Board members
fulfilled their duty in this regard. Due diligence was not done by even one
of our school board members, not even for a single candidate.

Finally, consider one possible explanation for why a school board member
might not complete all six of the above steps.

Since these school board members appointed a citizens search committee to
perform the initial evaluation of these candidates, it would make sense if
they relied upon the search committee to complete the first three steps for
each candidate, thereby completing the remaining half of the evaluation
process themselves (ie. steps 4 through 6). This would make perfect sense,
but that is not what they did.

It is my contention that none of the current Osceola School Board members
fulfilled their duty in this regard either. I know from firsthand knowledge
that I was never contacted by even a single school board member for my
opinion of any of the superintendent candidates. It is my understanding that
no other committee member was contacted either. I really was expecting to be
called, since, unlike any other search committee member, I actually spoke at
length to every single one of the nine candidates selected for phone
interviews.

It is my also contention that the majority of Osceola School Board members
didn't even bother to listen to the recorded interviews of the candidates.

I also know from firsthand knowledge that Julius Melendez didn't hear any of
the recorded interviews until I cornered him after Monday's final search
committee meeting on May 16, 2011. At that time he only listened to the
first 5 minutes of four or five interviews (each full interview was an
average of 45 minutes). Then and only then did Mr. Melendez bother to
pick-up the phone (while I was standing there) and for the first time ever
did he call one of the candidates himself (ie. Dr. James Browder). To my
knowledge, Mr. Melendez called no other candidates. Watch the Tuesday
morning school board workshop again (May 17, 2011). You will see that Dr.
Browder is the one and only candidate that Julius Melendez spoke very
enthusiastically about, yet even after all of that he could not see fit to
bring him in for an in-person-interview.

Due diligence requires time and it requires special care. It requires
someone taking his or her responsibility very seriously and in good faith to
the people he or she represents.

Due diligence clearly played no role in the recent evaluation of
superintendent candidates by the current Osceola County School Board.

The Osceola County School Board failed miserably in the primary role that it
was elected and entrusted to fulfill.

spberube

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May 26, 2011, 8:24:11 PM5/26/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
George--

If you had NOT been part of the search committee, and perhaps more importantly, had there been NO search committee, would you have gotten this involved in this??

Looking back, when they searched and ultimately chose Dr.Grego, were you involved then??

Geo

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May 26, 2011, 9:27:49 PM5/26/11
to harm...@googlegroups.com
Of course not! Ignorance is bliss after all.

But now that I have seen the process from the inside, I feel compelled to
bring the issues to light.

Suppose you caught Bob Evans pocketing petty cash from the CDD fund.
Wouldn't you speak up Steve?

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