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CCA takes on super search

Board on a tight schedule to replace Dr. Denise Schares
CCA Superintendent Dr. Denise Schares announced her retirement in February. The school board is now engaged in a rigorous process to hire her replacement by May 1. (Leader file photo)

AMANA– They knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace superintendent Dr. Denise Schares, but the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school board truly had their work cut out for them as they met with the search firm recently. The meeting with Dr. Gaylord Tryon, president and founder of G. Tryon and Associates, came toward the end of the board’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday, March 13.
Dr. Tryon and an associate walked the board through a highly organized, extremely detailed, and remarkably tight schedule for the search to replace Dr. Schares, who is retiring in June after three years with the district and over 30 years in education. Last month the board authorized board president Eileen Schmidt, vice-president Rick Hergert, board secretary Lori Robertson, Dr. Schares and the district’s administrative team to evaluate search firms and make a recommendation at the March meeting.
“You will not be disappointed when we’re done,” Dr. Tryon promised the board after they had approved a contract and before he outlined the rigorous process ahead of them.
The goal is to have a superintendent candidate selected by May 1.
“There is a lot of pressure to get moving and get it done,” he said. His firm is also conducting searches for Newton, Janesville and the AHST school district in Avoca. But, Tryon does not see the potential for any conflicts with the multiple searches. “You’re going to attract a good pool of applicants,” he assured them. Already, his office had received 15 responses, a figure Tryon called, “a very high number this early.”
Advertising for the position has begun with ads running in the Des Moines Register newspaper as well as on websites catering to education careers. Board member Steve Swenka questioned Tryon about not using local newspapers and was told by Tryon and CCA elementary Principal Dan Dvorak that the Register is the paper of choice for those seeking a career in education.
On Tuesday, March 26, Tryon staff were expected to spend the day interviewing board members, administrators, teachers, support staff, selected community members and Dr. Schares in order to learn more about the district and build what Tryon called, a leadership profile based on their expectations of a superintendent. From the interviews and questionnaires the participants will fill out, seven to nine bullets will be determined and used to screen applicants.
Tryon set an application deadline of Friday, March 29, and anticipates between 25 and 40 applications. “I will be disappointed if the number is less than 30,” Tryon said. Dr. Tryon will meet with the board on Monday, April 1, to present a recommended candidate profile with which to narrow the applicants down initially. Incomplete applications are immediately discarded and candidates without current licensure from the Iowa Department of Education as a superintendent (or without documentation supporting their eligibility to attain licensure) are also rejected.
The board is scheduled to receive the applications on Friday, April 19, with 28 total. Of that number, the ten top candidates will be presented to the board in a three-ring binder. However, all 28 applications will be made available to the board if desired, and it is possible for them to choose to add other candidates from the general pool of applicants.
Initial interviews conducted in a one-day marathon on Monday, April 22. It is at this point the candidates will be narrowed to two semi-finalists. Tryon urged the board members to make every effort to commit to the day, even taking vacation time from their jobs if necessary, emphasizing the importance of the interviews in the selection process.
On Wednesday, April 24, and Thursday, April 25, the two candidates will each undergo an intense day of their own, meeting with the aforementioned stakeholder groups as well as with the board. At the conclusion of the interviews the board members will have all comments, all scoring, all information on both candidates so as to be able to make a direct, side-by-side comparison.
Friday, April 26, is set as the decision day where the board will meet in closed session and attempt to reach a consensus on who they want to hire. Once a candidate is chosen, they will adjourn and Tryon will call the candidate to determine if they are still interested. If so, the board will reconvene for further discussion in order to make a formal offer of employment. The target date for the new superintendent to start is Monday, July 1. Throughout the process, the board is to avoid any individual research into the candidates, instead leaving the investigations to the firm. “We are very thorough,” Tryon said. “It is very hard for anyone to hide anything (in the background check).” A stringent criminal background check is also run with Tryon reminding the board members, “Our reputation is on the line here too.”
Candidates will not be named publicly until the field is narrowed to the two semi-finalists.
Throughout the discussion, Dr. Tryon reminded the board of all the positives the district has to offer a candidate, including: good facilities, a strong board, strong administration, and two very successful superintendents– Dr. Schares and Dr. Paula Vincent before her. The district’s good financial condition and having a fulltime business manager were also seen as advantages CCA offers.
“This is a district where you can come and stay,” Tyron said. “We look at this one as, it’s the top of the heap.”