The Warren Board of Education is about to embark on the most important job any board is ever given: identifying, recruiting and hiring a new superintendent of schools.
Superintendent Betty J. English, 62, announced her intention to retire at the end of her contract in July. She has headed the district of 6,500 students since 1999, and has made some progress in improving the district's Ohio Department of Education report card. She also saw passage of a local bond issue that cleared the away for a massive reconstruction program, with four of every five dollars being provided by the state.
The Warren board appears to be on the right track in seeking a replacement. There is no heir apparent. The board appears to be poised to enter into a comprehensive search for the district's next superintendent.
Board President Linda Metzendorf has called a meeting for Jan. 25 at which English's resignation will be accepted and the search process discussed
"We would be remiss if we did not do a full search," says Metzendorf.
Explore the possibilities
As we have said in the past, almost any board is remiss if it does not open itself up to the possibilities that arise from the broadest possible search. That is especially true in school districts that are struggling to improve their performance.
In Warren, there is the additional challenge of overseeing the construction of its new school buildings. Already the board has had to make major revisions in its plans, eliminating the planned construction of one of five elementary buildings. Over the lives of four new buildings, rather than five, millions of dollars in operating and maintenance costs can be saved.
The willingness to scale back its construction plan is a sign of prudent management.
One challenge that will face the board is being able to offer a competitive salary, the kind of salary that will attract the best and brightest candidates from other parts of the state or even other parts of the country.
English was paid $97,500, which sounds like a lot of money, especially in a city where the median income is $23,000. Indeed, it is a lot of money. But the superintendent oversees an enterprise that employs 1,000 people. He or she must deal with five labor unions. Certainly the school board does not have a blank check to offer any candidate, but neither should it be penny wise and pound foolish in hiring a superintendent.
It is the board's job to find a superintendent who can get the most out the Warren City School District's facilities, employees and, most importantly, its students.