Six months after the resignation of Dennis Johnson as superintendent, the Holland School Board has appointed David O’Rourke, district superintendent of Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services to find his replacement.
O’Rourke, who outlined the search process during a special board meeting Monday, called the process one of the most highly scrutinized decisions school boards make and emphasized the gravity of the job before them. He said the search would take about six months.
“Ultimately, it is the board’s decision,” the district superintendent said. “I will work as your facilitator, but it’s not my job to make [the decision] for you.” He added that in the coming months it will be important for the board to work together to set priorities.
Interim Superintendent Sylvia Root has headed the district since August, when Johnson and the School Board parted ways six months prior to his contract’s end. A separation agreement paying out $77,154 to Johnson for unused vacation, sick and personal days finalized his premature departure. The former superintendent was hired by Holland in February 2010 after BOCES 2 officials conducted a superintendent search.
Choosing the same organization to help with this search gave some members pause last week as they debated the process.
Board member Ronda Strauss suggested using the Western New York Service Council for a superintendent search but realized the organization’s $10,000 fee made it an unlikely choice for the cash-strapped district. She complained that the last time the district used BOCES search services, the process seemed “very hurried.”
Strauss also took offense at a comment from a BOCES official who said, “Nobody wants to come here.” She disputed that charge by noting the number of “outstanding candidates” the district attracted for two open administrative spots last year.
Board member Judith Geer, also concerned about rushing the process, last week proposed postponing the search until the fall. But Kelleen Kensey and Business Administrator Patrice Beadle advised against any delay, saying the new superintendent should be in place as close to the start of the new school year as possible.