WATCH | FL School Board aims for Jan. 15 superintendent selection

Fountain Lake School Board President Dana Greeson, second from left, talks about the board's search process for a new superintendent during Monday night's regular monthly meeting. (The Sentinel-Record/Brandon Smith)

FOUNTAIN LAKE -- With 25 applications turned in for the upcoming open superintendent position at Fountain Lake School District as of Tuesday morning, the school board has begun the process of narrowing the field of candidates, with plans to select one by Jan. 15.

Current Superintendent Michael Murphy announced his retirement, effective June 30, at the October monthly board meeting, after serving eight years in the role.

During Monday night's monthly meeting, Board President Dana Greeson gave an update on the search process, noting the application pool consists of a mix of men and women in a variety of roles, with six to eight applicants from out of state.

The board went into executive session after the meeting, during which it discussed the candidates in detail for the first time as a group.

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"What we did last night was kind of a continuum," she said Tuesday. "We didn't really have time to get finished, because last night was a really long night for us. We sort of started looking through the resumes and trying to award points."

She noted when there is nothing subjective to work off of as of yet, the board has to choose which candidates to more fully vet.

"We will reconvene on Dec. 4 to look at all of our vetting notes, start talking about really narrowing the list of candidates that we want to interview," she said.

The board will continue the vetting process through Dec. 11, before narrowing the list down for interviews. Due to the holiday season, candidate interviews will be held the week of Jan. 8 when school comes back into session, with plans to select a final candidate by Jan. 15.

While he is not involved in the interview process, Murphy said the district's intention is to give itself and the candidates ample time to prepare for the interviews.

"What I've tried to do is kind of guide them visually through this process, and then turn them loose to select the leader they're seeking to select," he said of the board.

"And then, of course, my role has been to impact the candidate pool by soliciting applications, by encouraging people to consider applying, all of that," he said. "I think that's kind of my role in the process, is to bring them the best possible candidates within the state of Arkansas or other states that I've networked with."

He further noted his role includes providing clarity on what the district has done and where it is going, as it is a big decision for the candidates.

"It's a professional move that requires you to, in many instances, relocate. Some instances, depending on where you work, you may not have to relocate. But oftentimes as superintendents it requires a heavy commitment, and so people really want to know what they're getting into," he said.

Greeson said neither she, nor other members of the board, have been involved in a selection process and are seeking legal counsel and that of the Arkansas School Boards Association. Although the new superintendent will be selected early next year, their start date will not be until July 1 following Murphy's retirement.

She expressed the board's appreciation to Murphy for giving it time to properly carry out the search process.

"We're just hoping if we get them hired by January, because (superintendent contracts) tend to be renewed around the first of the year in January-ish," she said.

"There's usually that window of January/February when superintendents are moving around if they're going to, so that's kind of our thinking. If we can get in there and get a person locked in, then we'll be sitting well for the rest of the school year," she said.

"We're trying to be prepared and organized, because we want to get the best person for our district. We have a really vested interest in getting the right person and somebody that can pick up where he's going to be leaving off and move the ball forward."

  photo  Dana Greeson, president of the Fountain Lake School Board, comments during Monday night's meeting as board member Cory George looks on. (The Sentinel-Record/Brandon Smith)