Opinion

SKSD search process penny-wise, pound-foolish

Probably the most important position in South Kitsap — and by far the highest paying government job — is superintendent of South Kitsap schools.

The impact of this position on the future of our children is obvious and far-reaching. It is therefore mandatory that every effort be made to employ the very best candidate possible.

The SK District has announced that it is considering the non-competitive selection of an in-house candidate to save money even though the experience of the candidate in question is extremely limited and he has no track record in executive management.

In addition, the procedure flies in the face of sound recruiting procedures and gives the impression of favoritism, as this would be the second time the candidate would have been promoted — the first time to a newly established position.

The future of the district for good or otherwise rests to a large degree on the new supertendent and that person’s ability to hit the ground running.

South Kitsap, like many other districts including Bremerton, North and Central Kitsap, is facing major problems. Declining enrollment, declining resources and an anti-tax environment among voters are just a few.

The degree of management and leadership skill learned through good and successful experience are critical.

By continuing with a non-competitive selection, the district is deliberately eliminating any candidate anywhere, and thus possibly denying the children of South Kitsap the talents of an unknown number of exceptional candidates.

The candidate being considered was selected for his current job from Arizona through the competitive process.

Likewise, the current and previous superintendents were selected through the competitive process, and the position is critical to the children and the community as a whole but the board seems to be willing to take a person who could be second or third best — or might not even make the cut-off — to save am amount of money that would make up a very small portion of the annual salary of the superintendent.

The stakeholders — our children, parents and future students — deserve better from the district.

This is a time to demand the very best, not a time to concede, “Finding qualified candidates is no easy matter these days,” as was stated by the chairman of the school board — a poor excuse for not even trying.

When has such action been taken regarding the selection of a superintendent in South Kitsap? Never that I could find.

When has such action been taken in other school districts, including recent selections in Tacoma and Central, and those currently under way in North and Bremerton?

Never that I could find.

Having public meetings to allow the public to get aquainted with the candidate is part of the selection process employed by all districts. But in South Kitsap it is a ruse.

Other districts hold such meetings so the community can form impressions of the candidates, usually four, and express opinions regarding them.

Why hold such meetings when there is only one candidate and nothing to compare him with?

There is one last danger that faces the district if its leaders proceed with this course of action.

They are deliberately eliminating any other candidate who might wish to apply, and by so doing setting the district up for a terrible fall.

The district has deliberately taken action that eliminated any chance for a woman or minority to apply and therefore be considered.

Should a complaint be filed by anyone anywhere, the complaintant must first prove that except for the action of the board he or she would have been considered.

The fact that the district took non-competitive action — an action never considered before for such a position — would meet that requirement.

At that point, the burden of proof would shift to the employer, and the employer must be able to prove they did not discriminate.

Should the complaint prove successful — and based on my personal experience in the field, I feel it could — the district would at a minimum be required to start the process over from scratch, removing the selectee, advertising the position, paying for the legal feels of the complaintant plus its own legal costs for defense, costs that would make the normal search process costs seem like peanuts, and then having the entire process supervised by EEOC including all the unwanted publicity and the heart burn with the results.

That is the best-case situation. It can get much worse.

Let’s do it right, let’s not gamble with the future of our next generations.

Robert Lamb is a resident of Manchester.

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