Five years ago, a poor hiring process still led the Jamestown Public Schools district to the right superintendent.
Deke Kathman, like Ray Fashano before him, has served the district and its taxpayers well. Kathman didn't inherit an easy job. Running an impoverished, small-city school district in 2013 is a difficult job. His replacement will have huge shoes to fill.
If you remember, there was little public discussion of the superintendent search until, suddenly, the board announced it had agreed to a contract with Kathman, a longtime assistant superintendent in the district. As the Jamestown Public Schools district embarks on the search process to replace Kathman, we hope the process will be much more transparent. The district has already said a student and community interview team will be part of the search. That is all well and good, but it is hard for an interview team to represent a community as diverse as Jamestown. The city's schools run the gamut of limited English-speaking students to honors students, students from less-afluent families to students whose families will have no problem paying for college.
It is understandable, up to a certain point, that superintendent candidates want to remain hidden. There are practical concerns for them involving their current jobs and their families. But, when candidates rise to the final stage of a search process, there must be a way for the public to have some knowledge of the candidates and to say their piece.
Having a public interview of the final candidates is likely to be far too messy to be practical, but there is an easy solution that protects candidates and gives the public an opportunity to engage in the debate. Make resumes of the final three candidates public. Allow those interested in the search to come to the district's administration building to view the information. Then, at the board meeting before a decision would be made, allow the public to speak about those final three candidates.
The candidates' privacy is still protected. The public gets the opportunity to have its voice heard. Everybody wins.
Jamestown got lucky five years ago when it had the right man for the job right under its nose. We don't want the district to press its luck again.