By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board of Education approved a letter soliciting proposals from firms and consultants to assist the board in the search for a new director of schools.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said, "I have a dozen names of [consultants and firms] across the state and I hope to get more."
The consultants and firms will be sent a letter that outlines the services the board needs and allows each to craft a response based on that information. The search will also be advertised on the school system website and in other publications in hopes of attracting more responses.
The letter is a shorter, simplified version of a 10-page request for proposals that included a great deal of detail and specifications.
"I like the guidelines and optional letter," said Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative. "We're putting the information out there. There may be organizations capable of doing more things than what's in the RFP. Search firms are professionals and they may have a proposal to do things differently than how we're spelling it out."
VanWinkle agreed, adding, "The letter is shorter and may generate more interest. It says, basically, the same thing but doesn't look as complicated."
The decision on whether or not to use a search firm in the director of schools search is the first decision the board must make as it looks for a new school leader following VanWinkle's announcement she intends to retire when her contract expires next June.
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said, "The first decision is do we want to do this ourselves or do we want to get help? If you find somebody to help you, you need to listen about the ways they can help you. The second option [letter] says would you be willing to help us and, if so, tell us the terms."
Benefits of using a search firm include having people to screen applicants for the position. Names of those who apply would not have to be made public unless an individual was among the final pool of applicants recommended to the board.
Jim Blaylock, 8th District representative, said, "Once it comes to the board, it becomes public information."
Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, moved to approve the search firm guidelines and letter, supported by David Bowman, 7th District representative. The motion was unanimously approved.
Janeway added after the vote, "I want to stress to the board as we go through this process, it's the most important decisions we will make for years. I'm glad the board was unanimous in getting an outside firm. We need a professional to research a profession. This process needs everyone's 100 percent focused effort."
In other action, the board approved the 12-month agenda and annual planning calender for the coming year, as well as the facility maintenance plan.