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Published: Tuesday, 5/2/2006

Openness vowed in TPS hunt for leader

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Toledo Board of Education's president promises an open process in the selection of the district's new superintendent, something that the search firm hired by the board didn't provide while working for another urban Ohio district in 2002.

"We are using public tax dollars, we are a public entity, and people who apply for superintendent jobs know that is part of the deal," board President Darlene Fisher said.

The board met last week with Nancy Noeske, president of PROACT Search Inc. of Milwaukee, which helped the Cincinnati Board of Education in 2002 conceal from the public the names of applicants for that district's superintendent job.

Ms. Fisher assumed the Cincinnati Board of Education decided to keep the process out of the public view to let applicants "maintain their working environment in their current jobs."

During the board's conversation with Ms. Noeske, she cautioned the members that they would be given applicants' personal information.

"You will come by a lot of information about candidates that's very sensitive in nature, so when we talk about confidentiality, we are talking about confidentiality of personnel information that you would have that is usually not disclosed during the process or after the process is over," Ms. Noeske said. "It has nothing to do with their identities in terms of making them known to the public."

Board member Larry Sykes said some candidates "will not want their names brought forward if they are not going to be a finalist."

Ms. Noeske also briefed the board on how PROACT and the Cincinnati Board of Education kept the media and the public in the dark about the identity of superintendent candidates in 2002.

The Cincinnati Enquirer filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Cincinnati school board of violations over the way it selected and hired a superintendent in September, 2002.

The suit alleged that the board's seven members, the Milwaukee recruiting firm, the new superintendent, and three other finalists conspired to keep the candidates' identities confidential by using aliases, accepting cash payments for travel expenses, and withholding resumes.

The court denied the paper's challenge to the process because the law says the district must produce records that are "kept," and in that case, the school district kept no records.

Although Ms. Fisher said the names of all finalists for the Toledo job would be made public, it was unclear yesterday if the firm would release the complete list of applicants that it receives.

Ms. Fisher, who said she wants to interview between three and eight finalists, said the Toledo school board would leave it up to the search firm to release a complete list of applicants.

Ms. Noeske could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Toledo Public Schools Treasurer James Fortlage said once a document is sent to the district it becomes a public record, but he was unsure if the search firm's full list would be made public.

Current Toledo Superintendent Eugene Sanders, whose resignation is effective Aug. 31, has been offered the chief executive job running the Cleveland public school district.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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