The active search for a new superintendent at Harlan County Schools kicked off Monday evening during a special meeting of the board of education.
The board named assistant superintendent Mike Howard as interim superintendent to oversee school operations once current superintendent Tim Saylor’s retirement goes into effect July 1.
In presenting a special award of appreciation, board chairman Gary Farmer noted the progress made by the district in academics, attendance and facilities during Saylor’s 12-year tenure.
“I know Tim would be the first to say it’s a team effort, but if you look at where we were in 2002 compared to where we are now,” the accomplishments are considerable, Farmer said.
Attending his final meeting as superintendent, Saylor admitted “it is a little bit of a sad time for me, because I’m going to miss it.”
Saylor noted “the good people around me” in being able to improve test scores, graduation rates, and facilities, “but the bottom line is it was the board,” he said. “You guys made the decisions. It was up to me to make sure we were on track.”
Saylor and Farmer acknowledged facility issues remain, and enrollment is predicted to continue dropping. Recent layoffs in the coal industry point to another significant decrease this coming year.
“I don’t know where enrollment’s going to be,” Saylor commented. “It’s a difficult time in Harlan County right now.”
Following routine business, board members held their initial meeting with the members of the superintendent search committee, consisting of four district employees and a parent. Board member Brenda Henson also serves on the committee.
The joint meeting included Mike Oder, consultant from the Kentucky School Boards Association, who outlined the roles and responsibilities for each group as they work through the search process.
The search committee will be responsible for screening all candidates according to criteria established by the board, Oder said. The committee must protect the confidentiality of the candidates during their search, and must recommend three to five candidates to the board on July 16.
In addition to setting the guidelines for the committee’s work and the timeline they must follow, the board is responsible for all correspondence and procedures regarding applications, and hearing the committee’s recommendations.
The board is not required to hire from those recommendations and may interview such candidates as they see fit. The hiring and contract conditions for a superintendent are strictly the board’s responsibility, Oder said.
Thus far, the district has received seven applications for the open position, five of whom are from candidates currently working in Kentucky. One of the seven is currently a superintendent. The committee accepted those files and began a paper screening process from which they will choose applicants for background and reference checks.
The board’s timeline calls for them to interview all candidates between July 19 and 26 and name a new superintendent on July 31.