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GAPS board considers accelerated search process

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Greater Albany Public Schools district office

The Albany School Board agreed in a special meeting Wednesday to have legal counsel write an explanation of an accelerated interim superintendent search for public comment in advance of a second meeting Friday.

Residents will have until noon Friday to submit comments on the process, which is scheduled to be made available Thursday morning.

Friday's special meeting starts at 5 p.m. It will be available for public viewing on the district's YouTube channel, Schools.

Board members voted 3-1 with one abstention July 14 to terminate the contract of the current superintendent, Melissa Goff, as of Friday. On Wednesday, board members heard options from Paul Dakopolos, the attorney for Greater Albany Public Schools, on next steps to take.

The policy board members usually would follow in recruiting and appointing a superintendent is called CBB. It requires development and adoption of a set of standards for the superintendent's qualifications and work experience, criteria for the application and the screening and hiring process, and directives on the type of search the board wants to pursue. It also allows board conversations about the hiring to be held in executive sessions, which are closed to the public.

Goff, as the outgoing superintendent, has delegated superintendent's duties to various people currently within the GAPS administration, Dakopolos said. One option would be for the board to simply let those duties remain delegated while it pursues the usual process to hire an interim superintendent, taking as much time as necessary.

However, another policy, BFF, allows the board to temporarily suspend any policy that isn't required by law. Therefore, the board could use BFF to suspend CBB and take a different, potentially faster approach to find an interim superintendent, Dakopolos said.

Board members could suspend CBB, then individually call people they think would make good interim candidates, then authorize Dakopolos work up a contract and talk with a proposed candidate on that contract.

Identification of such a candidate could happen possibly as soon as next week, he said. The board could then take public comment on the candidate and choose to hire the person at a subsequent meeting.

If the board wishes to take that route, the catch is that no executive sessions can take place for interviews, Dakopolos said. Individual board members may call an individual candidate privately to gauge interest, but all board discussions with the potential candidates must be held in public.

The plan isn't ideal, Dakopolos said, and it's not one he'd recommend if the board wanted to use it to hire for the permanent position.

"That is a super accelerated process that gives the public an opportunity to comment, but it's compressed into such a tight time frame," he said. "You could lengthen the time frame and let the current administration function under the delegated authorities, but ultimately, if your goal is to have a new interim superintendent in place in August, this is a legal way to do it and permitted by your policies, so long as you walk the thread that I've outlined."

Dakopolos called the board's situation "unusual," but Assistant Superintendent Lisa Harlan reminded directors the district went through a similar situation three years ago.

In July 2018, the board voted to fire Superintendent Jim Golden. Members worked with a professional recruiter to find an interim while Harlan, who had just started as assistant superintendent about two weeks previously, served as acting superintendent.

In August 2018, the board chose a retired superintendent, Tim Mills, who served for 10 months while directors worked on a search for a replacement. They chose Goff, who took the seat in 2019.

The current board members discussed voting to suspend policy CBB during Wednesday's meeting but decided to wait until Friday to continue the open public comment period.

Directors said they had received numerous comments in advance of Wednesday's meeting but did not read them into the record.

The meeting was not open to in-person participation, but about 30 residents gathered outside the district office anyway, saying they wanted the board to reconsider its decision to terminate Goff's contract.

"The board’s decision to end Melissa Goff’s contract was hasty and short-sighted. For a decision with such wide reaching impact — both fiscally and functionally — they should have sought community input, given time for Goff to prove herself under their direction, or been prepared to defend their choice," Jill Nelson, parent of GAPS students ages 8 and 11, said in a written statement following the gathering. "Rescinding their decision would show a willingness to work with those with opposing viewpoints while building a clear direction for our district and would be a wiser use of our limited resources."


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