An invite-only event to meet candidates to replace Pasco School Superintendent Saundra Hill will now be open to the public.
Tonight’s reception at Chiawana High School initially was going to be just for members of a focus group that helped determine what criteria should be considered when hiring the district’s next superintendent.
But school board President Ryan Brault decided Monday to open up the session, district spokeswoman Leslee Caul said.
“This was not intended as a large community event, as these individuals are all still candidates for the position, not finalists,” said a statement from the district on Tuesday.
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No other information about the candidates was released, including how many would be available to speak with district officials, teachers and the members of the public. The district said more information about the candidates will be released before today’s reception.
The reception, school tours and closed-door candidate interviews are planned through Friday. The school board is expected to make a decision by the end of the month.
But some Pasco parents have told the Herald they’re bothered by how little information about the process and the candidates has been released. They said there’s been little discussion or updates at public board meetings or from the district since Hill announced she will retire at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
“I have researched every school district in Washington that is hiring this year,” west Pasco parent Christina Johnson told the Herald in an email. “They have all announced the finalists and a public forum to the local paper with plenty of time for the public to make plans to attend and for the paper to research and interview the candidates. ... Only after receiving a few emails wondering about the lack of transparency, (Pasco) decided to open the (reception) to the public.”
Another Pasco parent, who asked that her name be withheld for fear of retribution, agreed. “I don’t think anyone is informed at all,” she said. “Parents just want more information. It’s really hard to get information from this district, especially on this.”
Both mentioned the process used by the Richland School District in 2013 to hire Superintendent Rick Schulte.
That board held regular public discussions about who would advise them in their search and planned open forums for each candidate.
Questions about the Pasco district’s process were not immediately answered Tuesday, though Brault is expected to be available to answer questions during today’s reception.
The district also has asked the media to not approach the candidates during the event. “Please allow them to focus their time and attention on community members,” a release said.
Hill, who has been superintendent since 2002, told the board in January that she will retire. Her successor will work as her deputy beginning this fall before taking over in summer 2016.
“We have made many gains over the last several years, and it is critical that our initiatives not lose momentum during a leadership change,” the district said in a statement about the superintendent search.
The district asked for the public’s input through an online public survey. The board also met in March to go over criteria it wanted to consider in the search.
A focus group of district staff, teachers, students, parents and community members chosen by the board also is helping with the search.
The district also hired Leland Goeke, a consultant who previously worked as an administrator for the Vancouver School District and has conducted superintendent searches for other Northwest school districts.