Public Input Wanted In Search For New School Superintendent

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The search for a new Payson Unified School District Superintendent to replace the retiring Sue Myers will be carried out through a different process than what was used in the past.

The school district has contracted with SEARCH SOLUTIONS for $3,800 to search for candidates from across the nation.

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Sue Myers

Joann Mortensen, one of two partners who founded this company, said the process begins with her coming to the town to talk with school staff on its wants and needs for a new superintendent.

Part of the process is looking at and determining where the PUSD should be in the next five years.

Mortensen will be in Payson Monday and will be meeting with staff at school sites during the day. The consultant will then be hosting a community-wide meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Payson Public Library to gather more input.

Mortensen said the public forum will include topics of qualifications, education and leadership skills.

She said there will then be a work session with the school board to develop a profile of what kind of person the community wants.

The document that is developed, she said, will be used throughout the rest of the process.

When the advertisement is placed on a national Web site as well as a state Web site, that document will be included.

The advertisement will run for four to six weeks, through the first part of January.

Mortensen said, at this time, only the consulting firm will be in contact with applicants.

A paper screening of all the applicants will be conducted before bringing a number of them to Payson at the end of January.

A committee consisting of school staff and the public will be formed to rate the applicants before giving the school board a list of finalists.

Mortensen said there usually are three to five finalists from a pool that she expects to be between 25 and 40 initial applicants.

The board will meet Feb. 9 for the final interviews and selection process.

She said the governing board has made a commitment that it wants input from the public, saying all ideas and recommendations will be taken into account.

Tim Fruth, assistant principal at Payson High School, said he is interested in the soon-to-be vacant position.

He said he is not a fan of doing a nationwide search, adding that there are advantages to hiring someone who knows what is going on.

"Last time we had a national search it did not turn out well," Fruth said, referring to the hiring of former superintendent, Herb Weissenfels.

Kristi Ford, a former school board member, said the circumstances from then and now cannot be compared.

She said the school board did not know the superintendent was leaving until April, prompting the president of the governing board to suggest finding a replacement through the school board association.

She said the board later found out, albeit too late, that the decision it made was not a wise one.

She said there are bigger issues in the school district than the personalities competing for the position.

"What is in the best interests of the children needs to be the (top priority)," Ford said.

Ford said the process does not exclude residents in Payson who can go through the same process as the other applicants.

She said the Monday meeting is extremely important.

"It's very, very important for the public to let their voices be heard," she said. "This is the time for the public to step forward."

Fruth said it is frustrating to spend a lot of money on a consultant to do a search like this one.

He said there are a number of people currently in the PUSD who are interested in the job.

"We are on the fringes of what is going on," he said.

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com.

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