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A COLUMN BY ELBERT STARKS III

EACS working through search process for new superintendent

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 7:33 am

Tuesday's meeting of the East Allen County Schools board mainly dealt with its search for a district superintendent and, in many ways, showed why the position is of paramount importance.

For weeks, the board has discussed how it intends to conduct the search and has solicited feedback from district employees, students, parents and residents within its boundaries - a laudable attempt at transparency. Tuesday's meeting featured a detailed explanation of a survey the board solicited from each of those categories of what the board previously termed as stakeholders. The board intends to use the survey results as a guide in determining lines of questioning, along with to-be-determined input from the Indiana University search team that is screening the applicants.

But it was toward the end of the meeting, where the board began to discuss soon-to-be vacant principal positions at Leo Elementary and Heritage High School, as well as the district's director of special education, where it was fairly obvious how not having a superintendent in place has a clear impact on district operations.

Leo's principal position will be filled by Bill Diehl, whose request for a transfer as EACS' head of technology was granted during Tuesday's meeting. The board also decided it would interview - but not necessarily hire any of - the five current candidates for Heritage principal, and would wait to fill the role of director of special education.

The board's reason? The new superintendent should have significant input into that position - and on the face of it, that decision is totally correct. The incoming superintendent should, in a perfect world, be able to select vital members of his or her senior staff.

The problem? The incoming superintendent may not be hired until June, or later. That means any hiring the superintendent would do would take place weeks after that - and it becomes harder to find an outside candidate who is qualified, available and willing to come to the district mere weeks before a new school term starts, particularly if that person is leaving a previous employer with that short a notice.

Even Diehl's transfer can be troublesome for the district, since as the technology director, he was the point person for the district's roll-out of its one-to-one iPad program for grades 6-12 - which still has two years to run, based on its leasing of the equipment.

"Some may see this as the end of the iPad, but it is not," said board member Bill Hartman during a discussion period, referring to lingering negative sentiment in the district concerning the devices. That being said, exactly who will oversee the program, as well as the district's other technological needs, isn't known.

After the meeting, Diehl said he was excited to return to Leo as principal and that time will show that the district has done the right thing for the students in becoming a one-to-one iPad to student ratio district.

"You have to have a vision and know where you are moving the process forward, and I'm glad to have been a part of that along with our wonderful staff," Diehl said.

"Kids treasure them, and they are learning with them. Time will show what we've done," he added. "Every kid is on the same playing field (with their ability to use the devices to access learning materials)."

As for the superintendent search, the board revealed its search action plan during Tuesday's meeting. The board intends to have all applications reviewed by May 14 - applications are due by Tuesday - and will then interview candidates sometime after. Interestingly enough, the board discussed having staff members from the district, as well as community members to be determined, be part of the interview process – something that could prove troubling for candidates who wish to remain anonymous or not let their current employer know they are looking at another position.

A compensation package must also be developed, as well.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Elbert Starks III at estarks@news-sentinel.com, or call him at 461-8266.