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Whitewater School Board to seek leader from within

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Kevin Hoffman
June 17, 2011
— The Whitewater School Board is surging forward with its administrator search, approving an ambitious timeline Thursday that could seat a new district leader by the end of the month.

Board members unanimously agreed to conduct an internal search to find a replacement for Superintendent Suzanne Zentner, who officially resigns her post June 30. With time running short, the board developed an 11-day search that begins today with a weeklong application period for internal candidates.


Interviews will be conducted during a public meeting Tuesday, June 28, giving members of the community an opportunity to ask questions. The board plans to convene into closed session and could possibly announce a decision that night.


"We sat here Tuesday night (during closed session) for a few hours deciding what was the best way to go," board President Chuck Nass said. "Everything else we've done, we looked in-house for what we had and it doesn't hurt for us to continue that in this search as well."


Zentner on May 9 announced her resignation, which came as a surprise to school board members. She accepted a job in Phoenix as the national director of K-12 education with the Apollo Group, a corporation founded in 1973 that owns various for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix.


Zentner was an educator in Phoenix before becoming Whitewater's schools administrator in 2009. She replaced Leslie Steinhaus, who had been superintendent for seven years.


When Steinhaus stepped down, she gave nine months notice, allowing a comprehensive search that included candidates outside the school district, board member Daniel McCrea said.


Searching for an administrator during the summer is difficult, board member Thayer Coburn said. Most qualified candidates looking for work already have been scooped up by other districts.


"Everybody who is an administrator has a job starting July 1," Nass said. "Anybody that is going to be open to coming in or being allowed to talk to us may not be very good. I don't know that. That's why we decided to do what's worked for this district, and that's going internally."


While the board decided to scour the district for a superintendent, it isn't necessarily committed to hiring an internal candidate full-time. The board said it would consider naming an interim superintendent for one year, especially if nobody within the school district applied.


That would give the board more time to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.


Twelve people were assigned to the board's interview team, including the board itself and members of the district leadership team. Interested candidates are expected to submit their materials by June 24 to allow time for each board member to review them.


Thursday's special meeting lasted just 24 minutes, as most of the details were ironed out during Tuesday's closed session meeting. A majority of the discussion revolved around candidate qualifications and members of the search team. Zentner was not present.


The board scheduled interviews of its candidates to take place during a public meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the district office.



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