OAKWOOD — Teachers are voicing their concerns about the Oakwood school board's search for a new superintendent.
Among their chief concerns: being left out of the search process and one finalist's level of experience, said Wesley Miller, president of the Oakwood Unit 76 Education Association.
In May, the board launched a search for a replacement for Keven Forney, who is retiring on June 30 after 35 years in education, the last eight as chief of the Vermilion County district.
The board hired the Illinois Association of School Board's executive search firm to post the position and screen applications, which was done late this summer. Members hoped to interview candidates early this month and name a successor by early November, so that he or she could work alongside Forney from time to time prior to his retirement and ensure a smooth transition.
In an email, board President Greg Wolfe said the selection process is on schedule. He said three finalists were brought in last week for a second round of interviews and given tours of the district's buildings, which gave them a chance to talk with administrators and other staff members.
Before going into a special closed-session meeting to discuss personnel on Monday evening, he told teachers and community members that board members visited the top candidate's school earlier that day to talk to staff and check references but had not made an offer yet.
The board is scheduled to discuss personnel in closed session again at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at the Oakwood Grade School, and an action item regarding the employment of personnel is on the agenda.
However, "I do not know if we will act or not," Wolfe wrote in an email.
Miller said the education association, which represents about 125 teachers and support staff, asked to be involved in the selection process this summer.
"We were flatly refused," said Miller, a sixth-grade teacher. He said members didn't expect to be involved in the interviewing process but would have liked an opportunity to meet the finalists, get to know them and possibly hold a question-and-answer session. "It's a common courtesy to extend to the staff."
"We're a very strong district, mostly because everyone has always worked together," added Kelly Ferdinand, a co-chief negotiator for the education association and a high school English and French teacher. "This is the person to whom were are going to be answering. It's a shame that they haven't asked us for any input or even introduced us to the candidates."
Miller and Ferdinand said members also are concerned about one finalist's level of experience. They said the candidate, who was recognized during the building tours, has served as a superintendent for only a few months and lacks experience managing a high school. They added they have nothing against that candidate personally.
"We challenge the board to find the most qualified and experienced candidate to continue to lead our district," Miller said, adding he's encouraged parents and other community members to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.
In his email, Wolfe pointed out that the board did solicit input from the community on the qualifications and characteristics that people desired in a superintendent in a letter posted on the district's website on Sept. 24.
Forney, who isn't involved in the search, said it's a school board's responsibility to hire the district's top administrator and decide how to conduct a search. He said he's interviewed for administrative positions where school staff and community members were involved in the process and others where only board members were involved.