Education

Richland schools begin search for deputy superintendent

Richland School District office is at 615 Snow Ave. in Richland.
Richland School District office is at 615 Snow Ave. in Richland. Tri-City Herald file

Richland School District is looking for the community’s input as it begins a search for a deputy superintendent.

The district is conducting a survey about the position responsible for managing the district’s instructional programs.

The chosen candidate will train to replace Superintendent Rick Schulte.

Schulte has served for three years and doesn’t have specific plans for retirement, but he said it’s likely to happen sooner rather than later.

The deputy superintendent needs to learn about how to interact with the school board and the community.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates are looking for a person to fill the spot. Hank Harris, a company representative, met with the board recently to discuss the search.

“The search for a ... successor superintendent ... is an idea that is understood in Washington state, and is not widely understood in the rest of the country,” Harris said. “I think that speaks really highly for the state of Washington, and also for the board and the superintendent to really invest in succession planning.”

The initial stage of the hunt is learning what qualities the community wants for the person who will fill the role. To learn that, the company is asking people to complete a five-minute online survey at bit.ly/RSDsurvey.

The survey closes Jan. 6.

The search for a ... successor superintendent ... is an idea that is understood in Washington state, and is not widely understood in the rest of the country.

Hank Harris, search committee consultant

Harris and his associates want to understand what the district wants and needs from a deputy superintendent.

“We’ll leave Richland with a good idea of what you’re looking for, and we’ll begin (recruiting) as early as this winter break, when some folks are actually starting to think about what their next job might be,” Harris said.

The school board decided to keep the majority of the search out of public view. A committee of staff and community members are responsible for interviewing the finalists and providing their recommendation.

Harris said that several school districts across the country are moving toward more confidential searches. In a competitive market for superintendent candidates, potential employees do not want it to be public information that they didn’t get hired.

“Every board’s community is different,” he said. “On some level, you want to make sure the community is involved, to what extent is really the piece that only (the board) can know.”

Since the search wasn’t for a superintendent, several school board members said it would be better to have a larger pool of candidates rather than more public involvement in the process.

It scares me to lose out on a candidate because we don’t want to take some heat. Whatever question that comes from the community, we can easily answer.

Gordon Comfort, Richland School Board

“It scares me to lose out on a candidate because we don’t want to take some heat,” board member Gordon Comfort said. “Whatever question that comes from the community, we can easily answer.”

The person hired may not fill the superintendent’s spot, Comfort said. The board members may discover within a year or two that the person isn’t what the board intended for a superintendent.

If the person earns the chance to become the superintendent, people can express their opinions before the process is complete, board members said.

Board member Rick Donahoe said having a committee of community members and staff select the candidates gives the public the ability to be involved in the process.

Schulte said reference checks will be conducted before a final candidate is selected.

Harris said a discussion about the committee members involved is expected to take place later.

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert

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