Pasco’s future school superintendent will be selected Thursday by the school board from a pool of five candidates interviewed late last week.
A special board meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. at the district offices, 1215 West Lewis St., Pasco.
Whomever is hired will work alongside Superintendent Saundra Hill as a deputy superintendent during the 2015-16 school year until she retires in the summer of 2016.
Board members have moved quickly to find Hill’s successor since her pending retirement was announced in mid-February, saying they would hire her replacement by the end of April.
The five candidates who sat for interviews were Michelle Whitney, Pasco’s director of teaching and learning; Kevin McKay, superintendent of the Zillah School District; Susana Reyes, an assistant superintendent in the Mead School District; Trevor Greene, executive director of instructional leadership for Highline School District; and Ann Ifekwunigwe, director of career pathways and executive intern to the superintendent of the Newport News School District in Virginia.
The candidates also attended a reception at Chiawana High School last week. That reception was originally planned only for members of an appointed district advisory committee to provide feedback on the candidates. Board President Ryan Brault opened it to the public two days before, saying he did so after learning some advisory committee members couldn’t attend, possibly limiting the amount of input the board would get on the candidates.
The board has not had any meetings related to the superintendent search since the interviews last week, district spokeswoman Leslee Caul said. There was no discussion of the candidates during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Someone approached the board during the meeting’s public comment period to speak on a specific candidate, but Brault told him the board could only discuss the process to find a superintendent and not individual candidates, Caul said.
There was a closed-door executive session following the regular meeting but the specific reason for the session was not disclosed. Caul said she wasn’t aware of what was discussed.
“The board had time to reflect and discuss the qualifications and experience of each candidate during the interview process,” Brault said in a statement to the Herald. “We look forward to choosing the best candidate to lead Pasco School District into the future.”
The hire would replace one of the longer-serving superintendents in the Mid-Columbia. Hill has been superintendent since 2002 and has worked for the Pasco district since 1982, apart from a brief departure to attend law school. Her salary for the current school year is $175,775.
Hill’s replacement will spend the first year in the district shadowing her and will also take over for Kathy Hayden — executive director of curriculum and professional development — to work on revising the district’s curriculum. Hayden is retiring at the end of this school year.
“We’re not adding another administration position,” Caul said of the hire.
Some Pasco residents have complained of a lack of transparency in the district’s process to find a new superintendent, citing the invite-only reception and lack of details about the candidates until just hours before the reception began.
They’ve also pointed to the Richland School District’s superintendent search two years ago, which featured public forums for each of the three finalists before Superintendent Rick Schulte was ultimately hired.
Brault has said the Pasco candidates had a right to confidentiality during the search process and the board sought to provide that. He also noted the board was not taking its decision lightly and was relying on input from community members to guide a selection.
“Every process for every district is different,” he said at last week’s reception.