CCISD looks for new superintendent

HANCOCK – After many years of not having to deal with the issue, the Copper Country Intermediate School District Board of Education is beginning to make decisions about how to fill the position of superintendent.

Current superintendent Dennis Harbour plans to submit his official letter of resignation to the board in January and discussed with board members the different actions they can take to begin the search process during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Harbour, after previous discussion with President Robert Tuomi, presented the board with two options. First, hiring an independent association such as the Michigan School Board Association to conduct the search and provide the board with information and recommendations. The second option was for the board, possibly with additional input from employees, to conduct the search themselves.

“A number of you have been on boards who have done this and it’s somewhat a laborious process in that in public institutions such as schools and universities, it always seems that there’s an effort to be transparent, there’s an effort to select the most qualified people and it always seems that school districts really go through a process of trying to be transparent, making information available and trying to make it truly an open search,” Harbour said.

A main concern for many board members was navigating the legality of the hiring process. Some believed an outside organization with more experience could be a big help in that aspect of the process.

“Doing it with a formal entity like MASB adds credibility to the process, it provides the transparency that’s needed in a public taxpayer’s money thing and there’s also a huge issue in the legality,” said Nels Christopherson, board member. “Should it be an open meeting, should it be closed, when can you disclose this, when can’t you? We need to adhere to all the details and they need to be followed carefully.”

However, hiring the Michigan Association of School Boards for the search process would cost the CCISD $8,000 plus expenses. Harbour placed a conservative estimate of the total at $10,000.

“There are advantages to doing this and there’s obviously also a disadvantage in terms of costing you money,” Harbour said.

Several of the board members have been through this process before and, even of those who haven’t, some voiced support for assuming the responsibility of the search.

“I guess I would be looking for a challenge to take on the responsibility as a board member in selecting the superintendent without the formal assistance of an MASB organization,” said Bob Loukus. “We have lawyers that can check on legality of open meetings and what we can do, too. The legal aspect, if it comes to question, can be solved. As far as transparency, we’re elected officials in a sense. We represent the congregation of people and I think we’d be derelict not to take on this task ourselves.”

Whether they choose to hire an outside organization or conduct the search themselves, the board will need to begin the process in January in order to have someone in place by Harbour’s planned July retirement.

The board did not reach a decision Tuesday but will meet again in early January, before their regular meeting, to decide which course of action to take, giving each board member the opportunity to review each option.