Two superintendent searches in Okanogan County — one just completed and the other still under way — point out some gray areas in state law concerning the hiring process.
Candidates for such influential and important public offices need to be selected in the open, so the public can take an active role in the new leader’s selection.
Districts often hire a consultant to assist with the search. Those consultants put out the call for candidates, receive applications and recommend applicants for further consideration.
The first steps of this winnowing process can occur with little participation by the school board and no input from the public.
Some boards take more active roles in this initial step than others. Some simply take a consultant’s recommendations.
At the second stage, where a pool of hopefuls is narrowed to a half-dozen or so for further consideration, the process still can leave the public in the dark.
At each step along this path to finding a new superintendent, the applicants’ names should be made public so district residents and others can help to vet the candidates.
Consultants are in the business of head hunting. They’re paid by districts and job seekers to fill vacancies and find jobs.
They have a vested interest in the process.
The public, however, has a different sort of vested interest. It’s their money that will be paid to the successful candidate, their money that supports the school district and their children being taught.
It’s in their best interest to help in the process.
Districts, however, can become very secretive about the process, arguing that disclosure of job seekers might somehow narrow the pool or cause applicants to lose their jobs if their current districts know they’re looking.
Those arguments don’t hold water.
Most administrators are under contract, most times for multiple years, so it’s not likely an applicant will lose his or her job. There might be some awkward moments, but it comes with the territory. We urge districts to take the high road and make sure the public is fully aware of who’s applied and who’s making the cut to the next level of interviews.