The field of candidates in the running to become the new superintendent in Riverside Elementary School District 96 is now down to 11.
Consultants David Bonnette, former District 96 superintendent, and Dennis Kelly, former superintendent of Lyons Township High School District 204, who are leading the search for a new superintendent, reported to the school board on the status of the search at a special board meeting on Dec. 1.
The district received 45 completed applications for the position of superintendent. Bonnette and Kelly, working closely with co-interim superintendents Patrick Patt and Griff Powell, quickly narrowed the field of contenders to 11 candidates.
“We feel really good about where we’re at right now,” said Bonnette.
During the next month Bonnette and Kelly, perhaps along with Patt and/or Powell, will informally meet with all 11 candidates to come up with six candidates to submit to the school board on Jan. 5, 2016.
The entire school board will interview the six semifinalists during the week of Jan. 18. Three finalists will be called back for second interviews during the next week, according to a timeline Bonnette gave to board members.
The timeline calls for the board to make a decision on a hire after their last interview on Jan. 27, perhaps that night or soon thereafter.
The board hopes to vote on approving the contract and introduce the new superintendent at its Feb. 16 meeting.
Of the 11 candidates still in the running, six are current superintendents and five are assistant superintendents. Seven are men and four are women. Ten have doctoral degrees and 10 are currently working in the state of Illinois.
“It’s a real strong field,” Powell told the school board. “[Patt] has done more work on this than me, and he’s read every single reference letter. He’s thrilled with the people [Bonnette and Kelly] have come up with.”
Patt said that at this stage of the decision-making process, he is looking more for things that would make a candidate unsuitable.
“My objective in this whole thing has been to not necessarily find the best candidates initially, but to find the people who might not be the best candidates,” Patt said. “We’re all kind of working this together. From the very beginning the whole concept was the more eyes on this the better.”
During the Dec. 1 special meeting, board member Rachel Marrello, who was critical of former Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, broached the idea of asking if candidates would accept either a one-year contract or a contract with an escape clause should the hire not work out.
“I would just like to see some protection for the board here,” Marrello said.
But Kelly said strong candidates would probably not be willing to leave their current job for a one-year contract.
“That’s your decision,” Kelly told the board about the length of a contract to offer. “I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of candidates coming for one year. It would be hard to tell them that you’re interested in a long-term relationship and then give them a one-year contract.”
Kelly noted that three-year contracts are the norm for new superintendents. School board President Jeff Miller warned that it would dangerous to deviate from the market standard.
“I don’t want to deter a strong candidate,” Miller said.