Opinion: Hardin Co. board merits commendation for open superintendent search, but disappointing that community showed little interest in process

News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, March 27, 2016

Thanks for an open, informative process
ISSUE: Hardin County superintendent search
OUR VIEW: Board maintained transparent process
EDITORIAL

The Hardin County Schools soon will identify a successor to Nannette Johnston, who retires June 30 after a decade leading the district where she began as a student.

The Board of Education sifted through 15 viable candidates and settled on four qualified finalists — two from inside the district and two from beyond. Along the way, the elected community board members have stressed transparency in the process and lived up to that commitment.

An online survey sought to identify priority interests and essential qualities that Hardin County wants in the next superintendent. The screening committee reached beyond the board to include district representatives, including teachers, and made room for parents.

After the finalists were determined, the board included public participation in its interview process. In addition to private time to be quizzed, challenged and scrutinized by board members, each candidate was put to the test in a public meeting.

The sessions last week included a meet-and-greet opportunity plus 30 minutes of questions and answers. The individual candidates had no advance information about the questions and generally were peppered with inquiries ranging from their vision and goals to specific concerns about minority hiring, special needs programming and teacher resources.

The board members are to be commended for the openness of this process. Employees, parents and taxpayers all had the opportunity to be involved.

As you might expect, teachers and other school staff members took the greatest advantage of the afternoon forums. The staff members have a lot invested in their careers and in their schools and programs. Professional educators accounted for an estimated two-thirds of the small audience.

In general, the community demonstrated very little interest. This is disappointing because there is a lot riding on this hire.

Hardin County Schools operates on a budget in excess of $142 million. It collects nearly $31.75 million from local property taxes. The district is one of the county’s largest employers. The payroll this year for instructional staff alone is nearly $49.7 million — and that does not account for lunchroom workers, maintenance staff, bus drivers and others in certified support roles.

And, most importantly, HCS is in charge of approximately 12,700 young lives and tender minds every school day.

If the Hardin County community cares as much as we often attest, the four candidates should not have seen any empty seats during these public meetings. Some high school baseball games have better attendance.

Time demands, personal priorities and work responsibilities being what they are, community members cannot devote themselves to every key concern. That’s why a representative government of elected school board members exists.

Setting goals, approving a budget and hiring a superintendent are the school board’s primary role. In this circumstance, the board went over and above expectations in identifying first-quality candidates and giving the community a chance to take ownership.

When the final choice is announced Monday, the next superintendent will be a tad more familiar to everyone thanks to the board’s decision. That’s bound to be a good thing.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.

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