Unionville starts search for new superintendent

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Board of Ed. plans to use Chesco Intermediate Unit to assist in hunt to replace retiring Parker

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

Retiring Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker expressed her desire to finish her duties by Aug. 31, putting some urgency on the process to find her replacement.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — The Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education clarified the path toward finding a replacement for retiring Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker — and plans to make use of the expertise of the Chester County Intermediary Unit rather than hire an outside consultant.

During Monday night’s meeting of the Communications Committee of the board, the first board committee to meet since Parker announced her intention to retire, the board talked about how they would like to move the process forward. Board member Eileen Bushelow agreed to shepherd the process forward, although most of the board will be involved in the search committee as it moves forward.

While both in-house and external candidates are expected to be considered — four current administration members have the certification to be district superintendents — time is likely to be a pressure. Parker reiterated her hope to be able to retire by Aug. 31, although she expressed a willingness to stay on through the rest of 2011, if needed. Most candidates that would be coming from other school districts generally would be expected to give 120 days notice — which is already past Aug. 31.

“It would be my preference to be able to transition for the start of the student school year,” Parker said. “But if there’s some reason we cannot find a match, I would certainly offer to stay until a new superintendent can be found, assuming that’s the will of the board.”

Bushelow suggested consulting with CCIU Executive Director Dr. Joseph O’Brien, who recently assisted the Great Valley and Phoenixville school districts with their searches for new superintendents. Board president Timotha Trigg said she had spoken with her counterparts at Great Valley and Phoenixville and both endorsed O’Brien.

When reached for comment, O’Brien declined to speak, saying that he had not yet met with the entire Unionville board, nor been formally tabbed by the board to assist the candidate search.

After it was agreed that O’Brien would be the best option, in terms of getting a voice outside of the district to assist with the process, the question remained as to which board member would take the point. After some discussion, Bushelow agreed to lead the process.

Still, various members, including Keith Knauss expressed concerns about how long the process would take, especially in light of Parker’s desire to be done by Aug. 31, as well as some desire to have a new district leader in place by the start of the new school year.

A national search could take considerably longer than 120 days, and there was some thought that a more targeted, more localized search might offer speedier process. There was also some discussion about whether the process would be done entirely in public, or as a mix of executive session and public meetings — after some discussion it appears at least some of the process will need to take place in executive session, if only to allow candidates from other districts to apply without bringing public notice to their seeking a new position.

Board member Paul Price suggested that the job should have a salary capped at $175,000, noting that neighboring New Jersey has capped positions in that manner, although there seemed to be little other support for such a move from his colleagues, who suggested the idea was “premature.”

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