OGDEN — The Ogden School District further detailed at a board meeting Thursday night what its search process for a new superintendent will look like, and it has set a time by which it hopes to have made a hire: the week of July 12.
A scramble to find someone new to lead the district came after the current superintendent, Rich Nye, announced April 26 that he was leaving to head Granite School District. In a school board special session held the following Wednesday, the board voted to proceed with a national search rather than exclusively looking internally.
That decision didn’t sit well with some board members, and two parents offered public comment at the Thursday meeting to express their disappointment in the move.
“To say that we need to look nationwide for someone capable and amazing is not only incorrect, but offensive to all who have worked together to make this district one that people are flocking to,” said Janice Anderson, one of the commenters.
In the vote on whether to open up the position to applicants nationally, four board members approved the proposal and three — Jennifer Zundel, Joyce Wilson and Nancy Blair — objected to it. The decision came after multiple people gave public comment at the April 29 meeting in support of a national search, while none spoke against it.
The general consensus among community members — consisting of parents, teachers and a representative from the NAACP — who spoke at the meeting was also that the board consider selecting a person of color to step in as superintendent.
Ogden School District is one of the most diverse in the state with 50.9% of its student population being Hispanic, according to state enrollment data. It is one of only two school districts in Utah that are not majority-white.
For stakeholders at the April 29 meeting, it was important the district be led by someone who understands the large Latino population. In order to do that, some argued, the school board would have to look outside of its employee base and the state — both of which are primarily white.
“These comments I felt (were) discriminatory,” said Natalie Belnap, who gave comment Thursday. “We want the best candidate.”
According to Zundel and Blair, who both voted against the national search, other community members reached out to them saying they were bothered with the decision and things that were said during the special session.
“I’ve received some concerning comments from people that are worried that we’re focused on a certain characteristic that we can’t focus on when we’re hiring, and I just want people to rest assured that that’s not the board’s intent, and we’re going to do what we can do to find the best candidate for Ogden School District, and we will,” said Zundel, who is the board president.
The application for the superintendent position opens Monday. It will remain open for 30 days, during which time the Utah School Boards Association will help advertise the job.
If everything goes as planned, the entire process will take approximately 2 1/2 months. Board members were told to block out their schedule for most of June, after the application closes, so they can move quickly through proceedings.
“We feel like if we are to do this we want to do this in a timely manner,” Zundel said. “We’d really like to avoid having to appoint an interim superintendent, so to be able to announce a new superintendent prior to the start of school would be ideal. So we have kind of an aggressive plan.”
All applications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of stakeholders hand-picked by the board. Each board member is allowed to submit three names — Nye and Zundel suggested they be a district employee, a parent of a student and a community member at large, meaning it may also fall under one of the prior two categories. Board members must make a decision prior to the May 20 meeting.
The board will consider stakeholders’ feedback as it selects finalists to interview for the position. It will likely conduct two rounds of interviews prior to making its decision.
No portion of the board’s discussion surrounding the superintendent selection process was voted on, and the timeline for a mid-July hire may change. The board will continue to accept public comment at its next meeting and via email to email@example.com.
“We’ll come up with the best possible process and tools to use to get this done in a fair and unbiased way and come up with a great candidate to lead our district forward,” Zundel said.