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Akron Board of Education moves forward with school superintendent search

akron schools use.jpg
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.

The Akron Board of Education voted 6-1 Wednesday to move forward with a search for a new superintendent despite concerns from one board member and some in the community.

The vote comes as the board has faced criticism for alleged micromanagement of former superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, who left the district last month after less than a year and a half on the job.

Meanwhile, three seats will be up for re-election in November, with current board president Derrick Hall and board member Valerie McKitrick’s terms ending, while a vote will be needed to choose a permanent replacement for N.J. Akbar who left recently to focus on a new job (new board member Rene Molenaur was appointed this week to that vacant seat). Hall is also running for an Akron City Council seat.

Board Member Job Perry made note of those potential turnovers before his dissenting vote on the matter. He said a fresh perspective might be called for.

"In my humble opinion, we're kind of rushing it a little bit," he said. "You know, we have an interim (superintendent) who's doing a great job right now. Our schools are doing fine. There's a lot of turnover in our city right now."

Steve Millard, chair of the Greater Akron Area Chamber of Commerce, had similar concerns last week when speaking to the board, and he also noted many other school districts are searching for new superintendents, which could dilute the pool of talent.

Board President Derrick Hall argued that he and current board members were elected to make decisions like hiring a new superintendent. He also said the board shouldn't try to bow to outside influences.

"What we're not talking about is the fact that there are some politics in this community, and there are some parties that may not be supportive of some of us who are up for re-election," he said.

The Greater Akron Area Chamber of Commerce had called for a pause on the search, with the chamber and other community leaders not happy with the board for its treatment of former superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, who left after less than a year and a half on the job.

Board Member Carla Jackson said she was concerned about rushing into a new superintendent pick, but she and other board members said if they don't find enough qualified candidates, they can put a pause on the search.

"I'm comfortable at this point that by the selection of this firm, it is not pressing us against the wall to just pick any candidate because that would not be wise and that will be us not being good servants of the people who are there who have elected us," she said.

The board voted to hire Ray & Associates, an Iowa-based search firm that's currently helping Columbus City Schools find its next superintendent, at a cost of roughly $30,000.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.