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Columbus School Board Will Restart Superintendent Search

School bus
Creative Commons

Despite a bit of wrangling over specifics, the Columbus City School Board decided to go back to square one in its search for a new superintendent.

The School Board will start over on the process after spending more than six months trying to identify a new district leader, following the retirement of superintendent Dan Good. The action comes about a week after the Ohio Auditor informed the board some of its decisions violated open meeting laws.

Board member Mary Jo Hudson introduced the measure after offering a similar initiative at the last meeting, which failed.

“I think we had a great public discussion about all elements, I feel like the board came to a good common understanding, and it outlines a healthy and transparent process," Hudson said. "I’m really pleased.”

Still, her proposal didn’t pass easily.

“I agree with stopping the search and had no problem with that at the previous meeting,” said board Vice President Michael Cole. “But my biggest concern on this resolution is timing.”

Cole explained placing a June 30 deadline on the process was too aggressive.

“It took us six months to get down to what were two finalists and I think that we need to do our district and this board the proper justice of giving ourselves due time," he said.

But board member Eric Brown argued the board’s slow progress hampered its first search.  

“A number of candidates—and I have this on very reliable information—bailed out because time was dragging,” Brown said

Meanwhile board member Shawna Gibbs was skeptical of the mediator’s role in the process.

“Where I’m reading this scheduling coordination in the process—that’s what we’re hiring the search firm to do,” Gibbs said. “And so the search firm has a lot of these responsibilities.”

But Hudson, argued forcefully for putting some distance between the search firm and board members. She said previously some members tried to influence the firm—attempting to stack the deck of candidates who would come before the board.

“Part of this process is—is we got to the point so much happened behind the scenes in this former process that—I have no trust left in how we did it,” Hudson said.

In the end, the board agreed to a modified role for the mediator, but Hudson believes they’ll still be able to insulate the next search from tampering.  The board also decided to drop the June 30 deadline.  Now they’ll simply compete the search “as soon as possible.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.