School District 2 superintendent Terry Bouck suggested that trustees look for an experienced administrator from a large district to replace him when he retires at the end of the year.
Trustees and school officials discussed the superintendent search at a board of operations committee meeting Tuesday. Bouck announced his retirement at the September school board meeting.
"I think we'll rely pretty heavily on Terry for some of his insight," said board chairwoman Greta Besch Moen about the hiring process.
Bouck suggested looking for a superintendent or assistant superintendent from a school district with at least 8,000 students, and to look for a proven track of decisions that led to educational success.
"It's not just, 'can you say what you would do,'" he said. "Money needs to go toward teaching and learning and classrooms."
SD2 identified three search firms for trustees to select from to seek out candidates for the job — the Washington-based Northwest Leadership Associates; Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates; and Iowa-based Ray and Associates Inc.
"Different firms have different approaches," said SD2 attorney Jeana Lervick.
Besch Moen said that the board hoped to have a firm selected by the November meeting "at the very latest," with a job posted in about January.
The firm that SD2 hired in 2012 in its search that ultimately resulted in Bouck's hiring, Nebraska-based McPherson and Jacobson, was notably absent from the list.
In 2012, trustees debated whether to hire a search firm. But there was unanimous, informal support among trustees at Tuesday's meeting for hiring a firm.
Besch Moen, who was the only trustee currently on the board who was a trustee during Bouck's hiring, noted that 2012 was a difficult process.
SD2 attorney Jeana Lervick noted that trustees and 2012's search firm weren't always on the same page.
"Along the way, I think there were things that the board felt could have been done differently," she said.
Trustees emphasized they wanted to have an active role in setting priorities for what to look for in a new superintendent and have public input.
"We're driving the bus, not them," said trustee Joe Oravecz.
"That was one of the issues that came up last time," Lervick said.
Bouck said he previously worked with two of the firms.
"They don't just come in and start rattling off, 'this is the way it is,'" he said.
Establishing what trustees and the public are looking for can be a long process — in 2012, trustees winnowed a list of about 82 qualities to 30.
Oravecz said that even if more public input duplicates what trustees are already looking for, it's worth it.
"We're showing that as a board, we value that contribution," he said.