Decision on Urbana school superintendent may come on Tuesday

Decision on Urbana school superintendent may come on Tuesday

URBANA – By Tuesday night, Preston Williams may be chosen as the next superintendent of Urbana public schools.

The school board will discuss and possibly vote on the position at its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the Burkholder Administrative Service Center at 205 N. Race St., U.

A separate school board meeting, including a closed session where the board will discuss personnel and collective bargaining issues, will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

A vote would come less than two weeks after longtime Urbana Superintendent Gene Amberg announced on June 9 that he would retire in June 2007.

Williams was hired by the district in 1987 to teach social studies and coach basketball. He is now its deputy superintendent.

"We're giving serious thought to promoting from within," said board Vice President John Dimit, adding that he's looking at only one internal candidate.

"I would be anticipating interest in considering Preston," he said. "I think he would be a very good superintendent."

Board President Joyce Hudson confirmed the top school position may be filled Tuesday.

"There is going to be a vote, but I do not want to say that (Williams) is a shoo-in," she said.

Hudson said her personal choice would be Williams.

"I've worked with him a lot of over the last four years, and I've seen him grow into the position," she said. "He handles himself well, he makes very good, sound decisions, and he knows the district."

Hudson said school board members have informally looked outside Urbana for candidates. "We've checked the pool, and it's very shallow," she said. "There's no one out there that has outshone Preston."

Williams said he is "humbled and honored by the words that have been put out," but would not speculate on the outcome of the meeting or what he would do if not given the job.

"I am very interested in the position, and I feel that I will do a quality job," he said, citing his experience and "commitment to make the district and this community one of the best in the nation."

Board member Ruth Ann Fisher declined to name her pick for superintendent but said, "the obvious choice for this school district is an outstanding internal individual."

Board member Mark Netter could not be reached for comment, and members Benita Rollins-Gay and Steve Summers did not return messages.

Member Cope Cumpston said she preferred to let Tuesday's discussion speak for itself.

"The board has spent a lot of time talking about this," she said. "It should be something that we all declare at the same time at the same meeting."

Hudson said the decision is happening quickly because there's no reason for it not to move forward now. Superintendents are hired by – and answer to – the board, she said, adding that the community already knows Williams well.

"Why would we not? Why would you not give someone something they deserve?" she said.

Though there was some discussion about formally looking at outside candidates, the board decided not to conduct that search, said the district's spokeswoman, Kathy Wallig.

"Most school districts (this size) use headhunter organizations, which is horrendously expensive," she said. "Advertising alone could probably pay a teacher for a year."

She said that with a qualified candidate available, there was no need to pay for that process.

"It makes sense for them to take this action and get it done," she said. "I'm sure we'll take criticism for it. ... We'd take criticism for it if we did a public search."

There is also an impetus for the board to hire Williams while he's still available.

"Preston is a man who could probably have his pick of school districts," Wallig said. "He does have the kind of freedom to pack up and go if that's what he wants to do."

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