Search on for new superintendent in Culpeper County

Members of the Culpeper County School Board began rolling up their sleeves Thursday, Feb. 12, when they met with the executive recruitment team Bill and Barb Dean of McPherson & Jacobson to plan the search for a new school superintendent. The Deans, involved in the last superintendent search, presented a full agenda for the work session, including a search calendar, selection criteria, advertising, candidate compensation, and stakeholder groups.

The proposed closing date for applications is April 2. During the week of April 29, the School Board will receive the short list of candidates available for interviews. The final interviews and selection of the superintendent are planned for the week of April 27. The new superintendent is slated to begin on July 1.

The most comprehensive activity for the board at the work session was to determine selection criteria for the new superintendent. Initially, members named 28 items desired for a new superintendent. Out of these, the list was narrowed. Some of the criteria considered important were that the candidate should be: a strong instructional leader; a good listener to all input; and a visionary with the challenge to improve staff and students. Board members also expressed the desire for the candidate to be an effective communicator with all groups; to possess diversity awareness; to be student-centered in all decisions; and to be politically savvy at all levels. The Deans will take all of the recommendations of the board and generate a concise list of criteria and questions for the candidates, reflective of the board members input.

For advertising, McPherson & Jacobson will provide a custom brochure for CCPS and utilize its own website, along with other social media outlets to advertise the position. The Board also agreed to place electronically formatted advertising with American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Job Bulletin and Education Week’s Top School Jobs. A couple of Virginia education-related sites are also being considered for ad placement.

In the discussion of final candidate compensation, other school district salaries were compared. The Board stated that it would offer a reasonable and competitive salary, based on the candidates education and experience.

Plans were also discussed for stakeholder meetings during the week of March 2 with representatives from groups of administrators, classified and certified employees, students, parents, businesses, government, and the community. There will be four questions asked: 1. What is good about Culpeper? 2. What is good about the school district? 3. What are issues (local, state, national)? 4. What characteristics and skills should the final candidate have to build success?

Later, there will be a smaller group session, Meet and Greet, with the candidates in which questions will be presented by a group facilitator. The Board will receive written feedback from these meetings, along with results from an internet survey open to the public.

McPherson & Jacobson is the third largest executive recruitment firm in the nation, with consultants in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Bill Dean, a retired school superintendent, has 43 years of experience in education. His wife Barb, also a long-time educator, has classroom experience.

At an earlier session, Chairperson Elizabeth Hutchins, having been through this process previously, gave board members a handout prepared by Dr. Alfred R. Butler, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. In the materials, Butler made the following statement, “The single most important decision a school board makes is the selection of the Division Superintendent. No other decision has the impact of this one decision.”

Hutchins was fully supportive of the boardâ??s using McPherson & Jacobson. Chair Elizabeth. She said the Board used McPherson & Jacobson in 2009 when they hired Dr. Bobbi Johnson and were very pleased with their process.

Raising teacher salaries still part of the budget plan

The Culpeper County Public Schools Board held a budget hearing at their February regular meeting, but no one addressed any comments or concerns to board members. Superintendent Dr. Bobbi Johnson reiterated items presented in her budget presentation at the last work session. The district expects a cost savings of $760,000 to be reflected while building the budget.

Johnson still anticipates a starting salary of $39,000 for new teachers. She emphasized that this starting salary will positively impact all salaries. Johnson restated that the budget proposal allows for a net increase of three teachers, but all school districts are waiting for news on Friday as the Senate and House present their budgets.

Alice Felts is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach her at