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By PAMELA GOULD
The Spotsylvania School Board's superintendent search committee is just getting started, but it's already clear that replacing a popular superintendent has its own set of challenges.
"I think it's going to be unfair to the next person if we expect them to be a clone of Shelley Redinger," said board Chairwoman Linda Wieland, search committee co-chair. "At the same time, we'd like to find someone with the same qualities."
Redinger, 44, began her tenure last July and was expected to stay in Spotsylvania County beyond her initial four-year contract, but that changed after a search firm for Spokane (Wash.) Public Schools contacted her in February. Because she has relatives there who are seriously ill, Redinger felt she should consider the move.
On April 14, Spokane schools' board of directors offered her the job. She is expected to finalize her contract there on Wednesday and start July 1.
The School Board began discussing how it will proceed to find a successor at a work session last Monday and is expected to continue the conversation tonight. A representative from BWP and Associates, the search firm used to find Redinger last year, will attend.
Wieland said she wanted a representative present so the three new members on the School Board could get acquainted with the firm and how it works.
Also tonight, Wieland and superintendent search committee co-chair Amanda Blalock will share information about their first meetings and look for input from the rest of the board on the direction it wants to take.
The board can use BWP's services again for free because of a two-year search success clause in the board's contract with the firm.
One question to resolve is whether the board wants to start from scratch and repeat the process of seeking input from the staff and community about the qualities it wants in the next school division chief. Since both groups have been pleased with Redinger, the board could use the same criteria it used in finding her and save time in the process.
"We know what skill set has worked for this community," Blalock said. "It's pretty clear what the community wants in the next leader."
But Blalock and Wieland said they need to hear from the rest of the board before moving ahead. Their role is to provide information and, when the time comes, to check references.
Last week, Wieland offered three options for conducting the search. One would be to run an ad for a short time and quickly get candidates in town for interviews. A second would be to run ads longer and allow about 45 days for candidates to respond and set up interviews. Those options might get someone in place by July
If the board goes with an interim superintendent, it could advertise next fall and potentially attract more and better candidates, Wieland said she was advised by BWP's Bill Symons.
If it pursues the third option, the board might be able to get the next person in place by the second semester of the next school year.
Blalock and Wieland said the qualities Redinger brought to the job make sense to pursue again.
They noted that she has been visible in the community, focused on the classroom and accessible to all staff from teachers to bus drivers and cafeteria workers. She also is a good listener, remembers what it was like to be in the classroom and thinks strategically. An example of strategic thinking was the proposal to streamline the division for next year, eliminating some central-office positions and sending others back into the classroom to increase the focus on instruction.
"Whoever we choose," Wieland said, "needs to come in without constant comparisons."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972