CHAMPAIGN — Groups of teachers, principals, administrators, administrative assistants, business leaders and other community members spent several days last week interviewing the three finalists for the Champaign school district's superintendent job.
Now that they're done, the school board has lots of evaluation forms and other written feedback to sort through as they begin the decision-making process.
"We're going to get a mountain of paperwork to read over the weekend," said school board President Sue Grey.
Board members will have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. today (Monday, Dec. 19) at the Mellon Administrative Center and bring their observations from what they read over the weekend.
Each person who met with a superintendent finalist filled out an evaluation form.
The board will also receive notes from group discussions about the candidates.
Central High School Principal Joe Williams was on a team of principals, administrators from the central office and administrative assistants who interviewed the candidates.
He said he found the process different from a typical interview because of the individual forms.
"It forces you to articulate your own opinions first," Williams said. He believes that "strengthened the discussion" because it gave team members a chance to reflect on the candidates first.
The board emphasized to the community groups that met with candidates that they weren't to rank them.
"That's our job," Grey said. Instead, she's hoping the groups recognized the same strengths or qualities that the board found. Similarly, she said, the board hopes the feedback will show whether community members found a certain candidate not right for the job.
"I'm really excited to read that information and that input to see what people thought and how (we did) with our selection," she said.
Laura Weis, president and CEO of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, said nine to 10 business leaders, including someone from Parkland College and someone from the University of Illinois, participated in the chamber's interviews of the candidates.
Their focus was how the school district and business community can work together, and how the candidates may engage the business community.
Those business leaders filled out the district's evaluation form, but also asked some of their own questions, the same for each candidate, Weis said.
"Those who participated, I thought, were very pleased to be a part of the process," she said.
Williams said he appreciated the board's unique approach to interviewing the finalists.
"They could have done it in a more typical manner," he said. "I think they're pretty well aware that they're getting a lot of feedback. I appreciate their commitment to that process."
Grey said that was the point — and the board started at the end of last school year by going to every Unit 4 facility, including its bus barn and to its operations and maintenance workers, to discuss the hiring process.
"We don't want to arbitrarily make a decision," Grey said, and board members have worked hard to show community members "it matters what you think."
Grey said she knows board members will come to tonight's meeting prepared, but they still have quite a bit of material to sort through. She said the board may have one long meeting or break it down into several. However, she said she doesn't believe the board will meet over the holidays, unless the board members "absolutely want to."
Plus, the board will negotiate a contract and create goals for the chosen candidate before that person's name is released to the public.
"There's a lot of pieces there; we don't want to rush it," Grey said, although the board intends to work in a timely fashion. "We want to do it right. ... I think the board absolutely without hesitation wants to do this the right way and to provide the best candidate for Unit 4."
The three finalists are Johnnie Thomas, Darryl Taylor and Judy Wiegand.