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School board looking at a new option

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By Kirsten Laskey

Switching gears and pursuing a hiring consultant to select a new superintendent could be a topic the Los Alamos Public Schools board discuss during a work session this month.  The board discussed the benefits of a hiring consulting during its regular meeting Tuesday.Current superintendent Jim Anderson, who will retire in June, recommended discussing this avenue of hiring a new administrator. Board secretary Kenneth Johnson asked if the board agrees to a hiring consultant, when should a Request For Proposal (RFP) be sent out.Anderson said it would not be hard to put out a RFP; the only hard part would be adding in the services unique to the district. “I’m sure one of the things you want is more qualified applicants,” he said.  Board president Steve Girrens asked how the board should continue the community involvement in the selection process. Johnson noted when a school district in Albuquerque underwent a superintendent search, a screening committee seemed to “function fairly well.” Girrens and Anderson both suggested possibly getting input from a cross-section of people or from a variety of groups, such as teachers. Girrens also questioned whether the board should form a committee to market the position. Anderson said he doesn’t believe advertising should be an issue. “The issue is knowing and finding people who meet the criteria,” he said, adding that the board has plenty of time to do this process. Girrens recommended the board begin the process. “Let’s get a new schedule … a new method,” he said. The school board began the superintendent hiring process several months ago, but abandoned it as a result of getting too few applicants. As a result, Assistant Superintendent Mary McLeod will serve as superintendent for the 2008-2009 school year.Board Vice President Joan Ahlers said a public thank-you to those served on the original screening meeting will be released. The notice will also inform the community about what happened with the search and what the next steps will be. In addition to developments in the superintendent search, the board learned about developments in financial journal reports. In an interview after the meeting, John L. Wolfe, director of business services, explained new state standards in reporting financial transactions to the board. Basically, the state wants public school boards to have more oversight. The problem, he said, is nothing definitive was given on how to meet this new standard.After discussing the issue with auditors, Wolfe said the schools decided to present journals to the school board reporting about financial transactions on a daily basis. Wolfe said the board will be shown debits and credits that total more than $5,000. “This is obviously to give information to the board about what (the district) is doing on a daily basis,” he said.However, Wolfe said, “This is still an evolving process.” During the meeting, Girrens said he interpreted this new standard to mean the board audits itself. He added that being given the journal “is a good solution.” The board briefly discussed the 20-year Facilities Renewal Plan, a long-term strategic plan about how to make the best use of available funds and provide a blueprint for future general obligation bonding programs. The Strategic Planning Committee recommended pursuing four-year bond cycles, each totaling $20 million, and stretching out to 2028. Girrens said the board needed a calendar or timetable of overall events.Anderson asked Wolfe if he had any information regarding legal issues with the election. Wolfe said he would discuss it with the county clerk and school district’s attorney. An election for two White Rock school board seats will be held next February. The board is concerned about the timing of the plan and whether there is a bond election to support this plan. There could be a possible conflict with the two elections. Board member Jody Benson said the bond should not go to voters at the same time as the Trinity site referendum because the public could associate the bond with the referendum.