The Omaha Public Schools board approved a new timeline for its superintendent search after a lengthy and tense debate Monday.
Four board members — Margo Juarez, Jane Erdenberger, Nick Thielen and Bri Full — voted against the timeline while the five other board members supported it.
The timeline, which spans roughly nine months, begins with public input through an online survey in mid-May and ends with finalist interviews and superintendent selection in mid-February.
Full and Erdenberger both said they were against the timeline because it lacked early input from the entire board and didn’t include enough time for stakeholder input.
According to the approved timeline, the public will be able to give input through an online survey in both May and September. Board members won’t be officially interviewed until September, with stakeholder meetings taking place Oct. 3-5.
Full said waiting until September to gather feedback from the entire board is too late. Erdenberger said she couldn’t trust that the accountability committee, the group managing the search process, would collect informal feedback from board members earlier than this fall because of the lack of progress last month.
Erdenberger said the committee went seven weeks without meeting, despite several emails that went ignored by board member Ricky Smith, committee chairman. Tracy Casady and Shavonna Holman were appointed in place of Thielen and Erdenberger after their resignations.
“I need to see some formal provision for input from the board members because informal input is not happening — is being disregarded and ignored, and that’s not acceptable,” Erdenberger said. “We have been elected because we represent our districts, and therefore our opinion in what we are looking for in our superintendent should be relevant in the front end of this process.”
Erdenberger said another large concern is the small window for stakeholder feedback, which is Oct. 3-5.
“We had 70 meetings to determine how to spend our ESSER money,” she said. “There’s no way we are going to get 70 meetings during this three-day period of time.”
Smith said that the timeline is simply a draft and that if the board wants to have more input, it can be changed.
The rest of the timeline explains that Matt Ray, interim superintendent, will lead the district for the entire 2023-24 school year, with the next superintendent starting in the 2024-25 school year.
Following public feedback, the superintendent job application period will open Oct. 17 and will close Jan. 16.
GR Recruiting, the district’s search firm, will then vet the candidates and recommend semifinalists by Jan. 31.
The school board will review semifinalists the first week of February, and finalists will be selected by Feb. 5. Public interviews of finalists will take place Feb. 12-16 before the next superintendent is selected.
“If anyone has any ideas, feedback or suggestions, they are welcome to do (give them) at any point in time,” said Spencer Head, board president.
The timeline was established “to be transparent about the process we propose to undertake,” according to the district. “The timeline is fluid and may change throughout the process as other circumstances dictate.”
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