Clark County committee botches search for superintendent |

Clark County committee botches search for superintendent

Bill Hanlon

With respect to the superintendent search in Clark County, one thing is clear, Colin Powell ain’t coming.

With the head of the superintendent search firm recommended and hired by the district indicating the superintendent candidates applying for the Clark County position are not the best in the nation, people in the community are wondering how all this money could be spent to find only good to average candidates.

The whole superintendent search got off on the wrong foot. First, the local trustees named a superintendent search committee to hire a superintendent headhunter. Immediately, that committee wanted a greater role in the selection process. Without prior board approval, this committee went to the Nevada Legislature to pass a bill that would allow non-traditional candidates an opportunity for the job.

While I don’t consider that bad, that appointed search committee let it be known very quickly they were not too interested in experienced superintendents, nor were they interested in hiring a local candidate. That attitude along with the belief the search committee was conducting meetings in private resulted in an open meeting law violation. One committee member disclosed (bragged) to the media that 40 meetings were held. That surprised some because approximately 15 were posted.

At one point the board president wrote a letter to the chair of the search committee thanking them for their part. But the committee did not want to accept that as “you are done” and sent a representative to the board indicating they intended to stay on and take part in the selection process. Interesting, don’t you think?

Supposedly, 90 people were interested in this job. To be frank, I don’t believe that for a minute. The local trustees never got to see all the names of the people applying. What they received were the five finalists picked by the superintendent search firm.

Community members began scratching their heads when the superintendent search firm’s representative told a reporter that these were probably not the best candidates in the country. Then, when board members found out that no local candidates made the cut, they acted surprised. I don’t know why. The search committee that was working with the search firm made it really clear from the beginning they were looking for a non-traditional outsider.

What bothers the employees was not the fact an outsider would end up with the position of superintendent, but the way it was handled. Locals were eliminated from the finalist list because they did not have superintendent experience. How could a local, working under Superintendent Cram, have that experience? You only have one superintendent at a time.

Adding to that, the search firm must have received a heads-up that culling the list in that way was not smart. The week the finalists were to be named, the search firm’s representative called locals and asked them to apply – even though the five finalists had already been picked. Whoops!

The locals being called at the last minute, after the application process was closed, realized the search firm was just trying to cover their own rear end. To their credit, they would not be used as a shill and did not apply.

One of the five finalists dropped out of the process after being interviewed for the position. Some say he was humiliated when a board member graded his application letter. The search firm representative said he dropped out because of family reasons. That candidate was Afro-American and appears to be the only candidate who had his paper graded publicly. That did not sit well with the single Afro-American board member. Some say he was the strongest candidate.

The search committee apparently wanted to try and have him reconsider dropping out of the process. The other minority candidate supposedly did not do well in the interview process. That left the final three candidates – two traditional candidates and a general. If the general is hired, a deputy superintendent must also be hired to advise the general on educational matters.

This week, three of the seven board members voiced their concern about moving too quickly and the process itself. Two board members clearly indicate they don’t want to just settle for a new superintendent. One board member even suggested they might be able to find better candidates.

With the search committee emphasizing non-traditional candidates, I’m sure many very well qualified people with superintendent experience across the nation did not apply. And with the search firm further narrowing the list by not considering locals to move on in the process, too many good people were artificially culled from the list.

Bill Hanlon, a Las Vegas educator, is a member of the Nevada Board of Education. His views do not necessarily reflect those of other members. His e-mail address is