By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy School Board will conduct closed-door interviews with five unidentified candidates Friday and Saturday in its quest to find the district's next full-time superintendent by Christmas, if not sooner.
The board received an initial briefing on the candidates and reviewed resumes after going into executive session during a special meeting Thursday night.
The board's mission is "to winnow down the five to two or three," said Edward Olds III, a partner with School Exec Connect -- a search firm hired to help find a new superintendent.
Olds and another SEC official, Diane Robertson of Mendon, outlined the interview process during the public portion of Thursday night's meeting.
Olds reported that 33 individuals submitted applications. He said the candidates included 16 current superintendents, five principals, nine directors, one professor and two in "other" positions. He said 14 of the candidates are from Illinois, four are from Missouri, two from Iowa, two from Indiana and 11 from other states.
He said thorough background checks have been conducted on the five candidates being recommended for the first round of interviews.
"It is certainly our hope and yours that one of these candidates will end up being your superintendent," Olds said. "They are the candidates that we believe have met the criteria that the board set up."
The criteria was established through surveys of board members, staff and community residents.
The first round of interviews should take about one hour with each candidate, Olds told the board. He urged board members to "remain open minded until all of the candidates have been interviewed."
Once the first round is over, the board will select two or three finalists who will be brought back for a second round of interviews that will involve participation by community groups and administrators.
Robertson said the second round of interviews is tentatively set for the week of Dec. 10, but she said the actual interview dates will depend on scheduling by board members. She said finding a good time to carry out interviews involving community members may be challenging this time of year "especially with Christmas coming up and music concerts and all that sort of stuff."
Once the board decides on a single finalist, a small group from Quincy might make a visit to the community where that person is now employed to get a feel for what others think of the individual.
"The board may choose not to do a site visit," Robertson said. "That's an optional thing."
Olds urged board members to make their decision quickly if they agree on a favorite finalist.
"The selection should be one of true consensus. You should all agree that this is the person we want," Olds told board members. "You don't want to delay the decision once you've had that second interview. You want to make that decision in the next day or two or certainly by the end of the next week" after the second interview.
The goal in all this is to name a new superintendent by Christmas or even earlier, though the person hired would not start work in Quincy until the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2013.
However, the board is under no obligation to pick someone if it doesn't like any of the candidates.
The process officially began in late August when the School Board hired SEC to lead the search for a new superintendent to replace Lonny Lemon, who left the district in June. The board agreed to pay SEC a base fee of $10,000 plus up to $2,500 in expenses. In addition, the district agreed to pay for any advertising costs associated with seeking candidates.
Olds urged board members not to reveal the identity of the five preliminary candidates. The interview sessions to be conducted Friday and Saturday will be closed to the public.
"We tell our candidates that their names are confidential when we present them to the board. And generally speaking, you don't put those names out," Olds said. "Then, when the second interview process starts, everybody's name is out there because by then the community is going to interview them and everybody is going to know."