Leaders weigh search options

The Catawba County Schools Board of Education is at a crossroads in its search for the system's next superintendent.

Current Superintendent Glenn Barger will retire June 30. School board members met Tuesday and started to discuss whether they want to replace Barger with an experienced superintendent or a talented assistant administrator.

"If we're saying superintendent experience in North Carolina is what we want, I could be an assistant superintendent who can walk on water and I don't have that (experience) yet," said Joyce Spencer, chairwoman of the school board. "I think that's what we're saying if we go with only superintendents."

Board member Sherry Butler questioned if seeking only superintendents at first would turn away possible candidates later who do not hold the top job in a system.

"I don't believe we'd be closing the door to anybody if we go the route that Joyce just mentioned," said Charlie Wyant, the board's vice chairman.

The board is considering two sources of contracted superintendent search assistance — the North Carolina School Board Association or a private consultant. Jim Causby, a private consultant and executive director of the N.C. School Superintendents Association, met with the board Tuesday to discuss his qualifications as a consultant.

"I'm not in the superintendent search business. I've never done one," Causby said. "I responded to this because I was approached. I can identify 8-10 names with a possible interest in the county. ...If you want to open it up broader than that, you'd probably be best to go with the School Board Association. I don't have the time to screen 35-40 people."

Spencer said she and Barger first met with Causby in early November to ask if he would consider serving as a consultant. Spencer said school officials had no other meetings or conversations about criteria or experience for superintendent candidates between that meeting and Tuesday.

Causby told the board Tuesday he knows all 115 of North Carolina's public school superintendents and has conducting training with all of them. He said he believes CCS should expect to pay a salary of about $175,000 to hire a superintendent who currently serves in the top post in a school district similar in size to Catawba County and about $150,000 to hire a current superintendent who serves in a smaller district.

"You will have no trouble attracting folks to Catawba County," he said.

"One thing is a lot of superintendents will not apply. They like what they're doing and don't want to disrupt that. A private contact could change that."

Causby said he would ask CCS for $5,000 to serve as a search consultant.

After meeting in closed session to discuss contractual matters, the board did not take action Tuesday to approve a contract for a search firm or agent, said Crystal Davis, the board attorney.

"The board at this point is trying to determine what process they want to follow," Davis said.

The board will meet with the N.C. School Board Association on Jan. 6 to discuss how the organization could help the system search for a superintendent.

"Once we open it up, we're going to start getting a lot of phone calls (about the position)," board member Glenn Fulbright said.