By Durward Narramore
An old English proverb suggests that “Timing is everything.” Well, timing was a key in our KSBA Board of Directors’ choice to restart our search for a successor to Executive Director Bill Scott.
First, I want our members to know what did not drive the decision to reopen the search. It was not for a lack of qualified candidates. I came away from the search with no feeling that our association’s top staff post failed to draw candidates of quality. I want to offer a heartfelt “Thank you” to all who sought the job. Both as president and as a member, I appreciate your faith in KSBA as a place worthy of your continued contributions to education.
In my mind, what did drive that decision to start the search anew were three issues with a common element: timing.
As our board began planning the original search last fall, trustees of the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust (KSBIT) decided that new actuarial projections on claims left it no choice but to cease operations June 30 and assess current and past participating districts to pay those claims. KSBIT then became the 800-pound gorilla in the executive search. Potential candidates wanted details. The application deadline and the KSBIT assessment announcements fell close together. We all hope the KSBIT uncertainties are near to resolution and will be less a factor in our renewed search.
The second issue resulted from last November’s elections. Eight members of the KSBA board were defeated – the largest one-time turnover of the board in memory. In January, some vacancies were filled by then-President Tom Blankenship of Lincoln County. Four slots were decided at our annual business meeting election in February. I recently filled the last seat. So when the KSBA board met in March – where we hoped to conclude the search – almost one-third of the association’s leaders were at the table for the first time. Understandably, this placed a tremendous burden on these new volunteers.
The last issue was the natural turnover in our board’s own leadership. Our Governance Committee consists of our three officers and the chairpersons of our three other committees. Between the start and the conclusion of the first search, the occupants of all six of those positions changed – three by the officer election in February and three by the scheduled rotation of committee chairpersons. While Immediate Past President Blankenship, President-elect Allen Kennedy of Hancock County (a former committee chair) and I had served on the Governance Committee, we were joined by new committee chairpersons Scott Burrows of Trimble County, Mike Turner of Casey County and Ambrose Wilson IV of Woodford County. In short, the group of leaders empowered to act on search-related issues between the KSBA board’s quarterly meetings also had a significant change.
All of these factors existed as the board met to interview a final candidate. When the board and the finalist couldn’t agree to all aspects of an employment contract, the board determined that the best option was to step back, take a breath and start the search anew. We will have an interim executive director in place well in advance of Scott’s retirement on or before June 30. And we will renew the search after what I expect to be a short break.
Our first search process was a victim of timing, not the candidate pool, the process nor the job itself. In fact, I’m confident that our new search will produce what our members expect – the best individual to lead our professional staff in continued exceptional service to local boards, superintendents and districts.
In the meantime, your KSBA board and staff are working on the new board member ethics training and superintendent evaluation requirements sought by Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. KSBA will make sure that we continue to offer the best training available to board members and superintendents.
I understand that there have been problems in some districts, but I also know that 99.9 percent of board members take their jobs very seriously and do everything possible to do the right things. Everyone can get a basic grip on finances, but ethics is something that becomes a matter of the heart. Our ethics training will reinforce beliefs of the individuals as part of their personal moral fabric.
When you hear me ask, “How are we doing?” I hope you can answer that you think we are doing everything possible to be the best service organization to boards and superintendents in the nation.
— Narramore also serves as chairman of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education