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BISD needs wide search, another strong leader

March 3, 2019

The impending retirement of Beaumont ISD Superintendent John Frossard presents a real challenge to the district’s governing board, and the people of Beaumont. The BISD absolutely must maintain the momentum it has built up under Frossard’s leadership. The thought of regressing — or being taken over by the state again — is too much to bear. The trustees and the managers have to get this right.

The best way to start is with a wide search. Frossard currently earns $249,000, though the next superintendent might not make that much. Anything in that ballpark would grab the attention of many highly qualified candidates. And whereas Frossard had to come to a district that was barely functioning, his successor will inherit a well-run operation. That will also make this job more attractive to applicants.

The BISD board should of course consider any local applicants, because they would have familiarity with the district. But as enticing as some of them might be, there could be a better candidate in another part of Texas, or the nation. The only way to find out is to cast a wide net and start sifting through the resumes. (Frossard himself came from Wichita Falls.)

School boards usually hire search firms to help them with this process, and that’s justified here as well. This job is so important that it’s worth spending a little more for a consultant to bring in the best candidate. That person’s focus must first be on academic achievement among students, and then getting the best possible teachers to ensure that learning.

The board could show respect for the taxpayers of Beaumont by identifying the three or four finalists, and then holding a public event with them so that parents and teachers can size them up. Trustees and managers should not use the common dodge of pretending they have only one “finalist” and then waiting 30 days to formally hire him or her. State law is clearly designed to reveal the true finalists. The Port Arthur City Council did this last week when it publicly interviewed its four finalists for city manager, only one of whom is local.

District residents knew that Frossard would leave eventually, though last week’s announcement came sooner than many expected. With another strong superintendent, the district can keep moving forward. With a weak leader, it will not. This is the most important decision the board members will make, and they must consider it carefully. We’ve come too far to fall back.

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