Schools Chief Search to Resume Promptly
D.C. Will Consider New and Previous Applicants in Push to Expedite Process
By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page B01
The District will resume its search for a school superintendent by considering new applicants as well as candidates who applied but did not make a list of finalists, officials said yesterday.
City and school board officials said they decided after meetings yesterday to proceed as quickly as possible to fill the vacancy without compromising their goal of hiring a top-quality candidate.
The decision follows the city's unsuccessful public flirtations with two candidates: Carl A. Cohn, a former superintendent in Long Beach, Calif., and Rudolph F. Crew, a former New York City schools chancellor. Cohn, citing professional obligations and personal reasons, withdrew from consideration last week after the school board voted to begin negotiations with him. Crew pulled out in May, taking a job to lead Miami-Dade County schools.
School board members met yesterday behind closed doors to discuss the search. That session was followed by a separate closed-door meeting of an education "collaborative" -- a group of three school board members and four city officials, including the mayor, who are charged with recommending one or more superintendent candidates to the full school board, which will make a final decision.
Participants in the meetings said the two groups reached a consensus about moving forward. "We're just going to proceed working hard to get the best superintendent we can find," said Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz.
The 64,200-student school system has been without a permanent leader since Paul L. Vance quit in November. The first interim superintendent, Elfreda W. Massie, quit for a job in the private sector, and a second interim superintendent, Robert C. Rice, was named in April.
D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7), who chairs the council's education committee and serves on the collaborative, suggested last week that one option would be to leave Rice in office for the coming school year. But Chavous said yesterday that officials did not entertain that idea. "We don't want to settle into a comfortable, lengthy [search] process," he said.
City officials had wanted a superintendent in place by July, but that timetable was thrown off by the decisions of the top two candidates not to accept the job. Officials have not set a new target deadline.
Nancy R. Noeske, president and chief executive of Proact Search Inc. of Milwaukee, which is working for the school board to help find candidates, said she does not plan to place additional advertising. She said the District's search for a candidate is well-known in education circles.
Noeske said that six or seven candidates who did not make the original list of four finalists "would be equally as good" as Crew and Cohn and that those people will be considered. In addition, she said that 10 to 15 people have called within the past week to express interest in the job and that she would review those candidates once they forward their applications.
"There are still many, many people who are very well-qualified who are in the pool," Noeske said. "We'll find some really good candidates for D.C. I'm not worried."
Chavous said members of the collaborative and the school board also will suggest names of candidates. He said he wants to look at local candidates who are familiar with the D.C. school system.
He also said that as the search proceeds, officials do not plan to hold a "public dance or a public courtship," as they did with Crew and Cohn.
Officials said they probably would reconvene a search committee that includes local officials and others from the community to review applications and narrow down a new list of finalists.
That group previously suggested four finalists to the collaborative, including Crew and Cohn. One of the other finalists, former airline executive Candy Lee, did not attract widespread support among city officials. The other, Stephen C. Jones, superintendent in Syracuse, N.Y., said he plans to remain in his current job.
The search firm, Proact, has billed the school board about $60,000, which includes professional fees and the costs of advertising and background checks, Noeske said. She said Proact would not charge any additional professional fees as the search continues.
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