- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Some district-level Missouri school officials have criticized the state school board’s plan to quickly hire a new education commissioner, saying the board should first gather input on the position’s needs and conduct a national search for qualified candidates.

The school board’s president, Peter Herschend, said he expects the board to emerge from a closed session at its meeting on Monday and vote on its choice, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1tI2yV7 ).

“We have clear-stated objectives,” Herschend said. “We know qualified men and women available today. We cannot afford to let education in Missouri go on cruise control for the four months of time it takes for a full-blown search.”

The new commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will replace retiring Commissioner Chris Nicastro, who had several conflicts with district-level school officials during her tenure.

The speed with which Nicastro’s successor might be chosen has caused concern among some district administrators.

“Most people see an opportunity to get someone who can work with districts in the state,” said Roger Kurtz, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators. “We’ve got to get everybody on the same page. We’ve got to have someone with the ability to pull people together to solve problems.”

The 29 members of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City also want a more open search process, with the state soliciting applications and holding public forums to gather ideas on what the state needs in a new commissioner, said Gayden Carruth, executive director of the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, which has 29 members.

“It is absolutely essential that Missouri’s education department have the best leader it can, and that is best done through an open and transparent process,” Carruth said.

Nicastro was hired in 2009 after a national search. Herschend said the board at the time wanted to hire someone who would aggressively pursue school changes and didn’t believe it had strong candidates.

This time the board thinks it has strong candidates from within and outside the education department, Herschend said, but he refused to say how many. The board wants someone who can quickly begin working with struggling districts and continue the state’s established strategic objectives.

“We’re not in the business of finding an entirely new education model for Missouri schools,” he said.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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