Four months into his yearlong contract, the Rochester School Board is getting ready to gauge the progress of Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel and decide whether or not to open its search for a permanent superintendent to other candidates.
At a recent meeting, the board reviewed the metrics and the timeline for the process. On Dec. 7, Pekel will update the board about his progress on the goals he established at the beginning of his term. On Dec. 14, the board will discuss his work and the reviews he received from staff members throughout the district.
What happens after that mid-year review is still up in the air.
“At that time, we will make decisions about proceeding with a long-term superintendent search,” School Board Chairwoman Jean Marvin said. “It may be that we will begin a search at that time. We have an option of offering a contract to Dr. Pekel. We have an opportunity of inviting him to become one of those who applies for the job. We have three or four different options at that point.”
Pekel's interim superintendent contract will expire at the end of June.
In addition to the board’s review of the superintendent, they will be receiving input from numerous other groups throughout the district, such as cabinet members, principals and others. All told, Marvin said approximately 100 people will be weighing in on the superintendent's work.
They will be basing their reviews on the criteria that the district used when it began searching for an interim superintendent. At that time, the school district surveyed the public. The respondents indicated the top five areas of expertise they would want an interim superintendent to have were:
Strategic planning and growth.
Community and parent/caregiver engagement.
Budget and finance.
Similarly, the respondents indicated the top five personal characteristics they’d want a superintendent to have:
Be honest and ethical.
Be an effective communicator.
Be a problem solver.
Be approachable and personable.
Work in a transparent manner.
Those 10 factors will be part of the mid-year review process.
“I’m really pleased (we're) incorporating people who have direct experience with the superintendent,” board member Julie Workman said. “As board members, we have a very different perspective of the person that we hired. So it will be really helpful to me in particular to see how he’s perceived among some specific groups that do have that interaction and work with him on an everyday basis.”
Marvin reiterated that sentiment during an interview with the Post Bulletin.
“Personally, I’m really impressed with the leadership he’s shown,” Marvin said. “I don’t know how others perceive him. What we want to make sure is that we’re listening to a really diverse group of voices.”
At the beginning of his term, Pekel said that if everything went well, he would be interested in applying for the permanent position after his interim contract expired.
Last year, the school board decided to hire an interim superintendent in order to have more time to dedicate to the process and have a wider range of candidates.
According to Marvin, by the time the board was ready to begin talking to candidates, it was essentially spring. She went on to say the "best" superintendent searches -- meaning those that "are most productive and get the most candidates" -- often start in January.
"At that point, we were novices in terms of superintendent searches. Realistically, by the time we were able to invite candidates to come and interview, it was spring. And the candidate pool by spring was pretty slim," Marvin said. “We needed to get the education; we needed to get the training; we had to understand the process that was involved. And that took some time. We know a lot more than we did before."