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School board starts superintendent search

The Portland School Board met for two hours Friday morning to begin discussing the search for a new superintendent, two days after Vicki Phillips announced her resignation effective July 1.

The board made no decisions, but listened to the experience and advice from former board co-chairs Julia Brim-Edwards and Lolenzo Poe, who led the district's previous superintendent search in 2003.

They urged the board to set aggressive timelines and a budget, do thorough rounds of research and get outside help while still being in control of the search.

'You're in a very important moment for the board,' Brim-Edwards said. 'It's the most important decision you're going to make.'

She said the board must make this their top priority, set high standards and view the process as a recruitment, not a search, because Portland is regarded as a top-caliber city.

Brim-Edwards said local consultants can help do thorough research and help develop a deep and diverse candidate pool, seeking out the best candidates both locally and non-locally. She said the board is in a much better position than three years ago to conduct a search, since at the time the board was badly fractured and struggling with cutting school days due to budget woes.

She said community input - garnered from online surveys, meetings and interviews with stakeholder groups - should help define the selection criteria. But it's up to the board, in the end, to do its research and find any 'fatal flaws' in a candidate that should disqualify them in the running.

'You should do due diligence, so there's no surprises in the end,' she said.

Board member Dilafruz Williams reminded the board that they needed to hire an interim superintendent, and Brim-Edwards suggested it should not be someone who will be a candidate for the permanent post.

'My personal goal would be to have a superintendent by the fall,' said board member Trudy Sargent. 'How do we make this process as tight as possible and get a good outcome?' Board member David Wynde agreed he'd like to hire someone by the start of the school year.

No date was set for the start of community meetings, but cochairman Dan Ryan said perhaps the board should work to begin the process before Memorial Day and the start of summer vacation.

The previous superintendent search lasted six months, from October 2003 to April 2004.

'This is more important now than previously,' board member Doug Morgan said. "The board needs sooner rather than later to tell the senior leadership team what it is they're doing. I think the board should send good messages to the staff, that we want to keep them on board and engaged.'

Phillips was not at the meeting and will not be involved in the search for her replacement. Ryan, who is leading the process for now with co-chairwoman Bobbie Regan, said the board will likely meet again within the week to continue discussions.

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