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4J Approves Consultants for Interim Superintendent Search, Divided on Inclusion of Public Input

Elizabeth Gabriel


Last night, the Eugene 4J school board unanimously approved a contract with external consultants to help with the selection process for the one-year interim superintendent position.

The second motion, made by school board member Jim Torrey, was a vote for confidentiality on the entire interim superintendent hiring process. The vote—which was 5-2—passed with school board members Martina Shabram and Gordon Lafer opposed.

The third motion, made by Lafer, was to include employee group representation (such as the Eugene Education Association and the Oregon School Counselor Association) in the interview process, but not allow them to participate in the final vote. The motion failed 5-2.

However, the board did agree to move forward with an internal hire.

Rob Saxton and Partner Randy Schild of RS2 Education Consulting firm will help the school board move forward with the hiring process for the interim superintendent position. To start, they recommended the hiring process be confidential.

Closed Selection vs. Public Input

Saxon said over the years, he has seen interested candidates not apply for superintendent because districts did not provide confidentiality. Ultimately reducing a district’s applicant pool. Schild said moving forward with a closed process will be beneficial in the long run, so candidates who were not selected will be more likely to stay at the district, and have less conflict in their work environment.

“You’re gonna have a winner, but you’re also gonna have some losers,” said Schild. “And the people who don’t get this job are critical to you in having your district move forward in a smooth and effective way next year.”

But Lafer believes the top finalists should be made public. And both Shabram and Lafer wanted employee groups present for interviews with finalists because they want to hear more feedback.

Lafer said he does not know how they could gather information on some of the proposed superintendent characteristics without speaking to teachers, administrators, and possibly classified employees.

“A couple things on the desired characteristics list are that somebody has a track record of and demonstrates a commitment to positive working relationships with employee groups, and working collaboratively,” said Lafer. “Provide solid and inspiring instructional leadership. Fosters and supports the leadership of others in the classroom and building level.”

But in terms of being equitable, if they invited some group into the process, they would have to invite all groups. If so, 4J school board chair Anne Marie Levis was concerned about accidentally leaving community members out of the fast paced process.  

“I wonder about who we are leaving out,” said Levis. “Who isn’t from the dominant culture, who isn’t in a leadership position.”

Board members also expressed concern that they could exclude input from black, Latinx, and low-income communities.

Levis assured they will have a much more robust process in the fall when they conduct the hiring process for the permanent superintendent position.

The consultants and Levis clarified that there needs to be an opportunity for public comment before a final decision is made. But that can occur in the form of a public comment during a board meeting before the final vote, but after a final candidate has been selected.

Proposed Timeline

During the meeting, Saxton proposed a tentative timeline for completing the interim superintendent hiring process.

April 9 — (by this date) the position will be open to the district

April 17 — (by this date) position will close.

April 10 — Position Closes

April 19 — (by this date) RS2 Education Consulting will complete a paper screening process.

April 24 — (by this date) initial interviews will be completed. By

April 25 — (by this date) RS2 Education Consulting will provide a list of finalists to the board

April 26-May 1 — the board will interview finalists

May 2-May 4 — a candidate will be selected, and negotiations would be underway and completed.

May 6—a final vote is made by the board during a school board meeting.

Next Steps

The board will have a special meeting next Tuesday to finalize characteristics.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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