Jan 26, 2023 - News

Des Moines school board debates transparency of superintendent search

Tom Ahart

Former superintendent Tom Ahart announcing his resignation in 2022. Photo courtesy of DMPS

The Des Moines school board is considering if it should share the names of three superintendent finalists or keep it to one during its search.

  • DMPS plans to start the search and hiring process soon.

The intrigue: The board is facing a double-edged sword: If they require final candidates' names be disclosed, they could lose applicants who don't want their employer to know they're job hunting.

  • But on the other hand, students and parents don't get full knowledge of the candidates.

State of play: Alton Frailey, a consultant advising the search, warned board members they should only name one final candidate.

  • During a board meeting, Frailey said other districts had "top candidates" withdraw their applications prior to the final announcement because they didn't want to be named.

What they're saying: Some school board members are concerned that if it's opened up and the public's perceived favorite isn't picked, it could be a "rocky start" for the new hire, board member Jenna Knox said.

The other side: Board member Kelli Soyer said she wants a process that shows "some sort of transparency" rather than just sharing a single name.

Flashback: School board president Terree Caldwell-Johnson said three final candidates' names were shared and an open house was held during the last search.

  • Former superintendent Tom Ahart was picked back in 2013.

Between the lines: The job market is tighter than ever for superintendents.

  • Between 2015-20, all but six of the country's 20 largest school districts reported superintendent turnover, according to education consulting group ERS.

What's next: The board is waiting for advice from legal counsel on disclosure requirements before reconvening on the issue.


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