Boise’s deputy superintendent is on the fast track for the district’s top job, after a hastily arranged school board meeting Thursday.
Barring a hiccup in the interview process — something board President Nancy Gregory called “highly unlikely” — Coby Dennis could have a job offer by Dec. 21, when the district goes on holiday break.
Trustees voted to invite Dennis to apply for superintendent — which, in essence, means Dennis is the district’s sole candidate. The vote wasn’t unanimous, as two trustees urged the board to consider external applicants.
“What is the rush?” trustee Dennis Doan asked. “I’m advocating for an open process. … We should take our time. We should be transparent.”
The board’s vote came one day after Superintendent Don Coberly went public with his plans to retire, effective June 30. That news broke only after the board posted an agenda for Thursday’s midday meeting, barely meeting the 24-hour notice required by state law.
Thursday’s meeting took 28 minutes. For the first 13 minutes, trustees took turns praising Coberly’s career at the Boise district before voting to accept his retirement. Trustees spent the remaining time discussing the district’s succession plan.
Trustee Maria Greeley urged the board to stick with a plan that provides staffers with a chance at advancement, and gives the district a return on its investment in staff development.
Several trustees dismissed the idea that the process is being rushed. They said Coberly’s retirement has been imminent for years. Gregory also said trustees held a Nov. 30 work session with Idaho School Boards Association staff, to discuss their hiring options.
The board’s newest member urged trustees to slow down.
Doan, appointed in October, said he didn’t want to discourage internal candidates from applying for the superintendent’s job. He took pains to say he wasn’t criticizing Dennis, a district employee since 1991. But he said trustees needed to take the time to hear from parents and faculty and the rest of the community.
Dennis did not attend Thursday’s meeting. And Coberly didn’t directly address Doan’s motion for an external search. However, Coberly asked Boise Education Association President Stephanie Myers to offer a perspective from the union.
Some teachers still remember days when the district and the union were at odds, Myers said, and members want to be sure the next superintendent has their back. “I would support staying the course,” she said.
Ultimately, so did the board.
Doan’s motion to open up a national search failed on a 5-2 vote, with trustee Beth Oppenheimer siding with Doan. On an identical 5-2 vote, trustees then invited Dennis to apply.
Most of the process will take place behind closed doors.
Trustees will interview Dennis in a closed executive session. There will be no public session to allow parents, staff or students to ask Dennis questions, Gregory said.
In the end, trustees will have to vote in open session on Dennis’ application.
Even though Coberly will stay on for nearly seven more months, Gregory said there’s a reason to move quickly. If Dennis gets the job, it could create a domino effect, as other administrators change jobs. Since trustees will begin the budgeting process in January, while tracking the 2019 Legislature, they would like to have a new superintendent in place as quickly as possible.
“There didn’t deem to be any reason to delay,” Gregory said.