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The Madison School Board selected a timeline for the superintendent search Monday.

The Madison Metropolitan School District likely won’t name its next superintendent until March 2024.

Madison School board members indicated interest in the longer of two search timelines presented to them Monday by consultant Alma Advisory Group. Alma CEO Monica Santana Rosen spoke to the board at a meeting for the first time since board members chose the firm from a field of three finalists to lead the search process, paying $95,000 for Alma’s services.

Monday’s presentation included two potential timelines for the search, a result of Superintendent Carlton Jenkins announcing his retirement in early February.

The timeline that a majority of board members indicated support for during discussion includes community input in the fall, with planning done over the summer. That will have a final candidate chosen in March 2024, with the person likely to take over the role in summer 2024.

“This is a process you should do if you’re feeling that a longer timeframe may give you better stakeholder engagement, if you’re feeling that your current interim is able to stay through the end of the school year and can support any sort of stability and strengthening of the organization, potentially readying the organization for your next leader,” Rosen told the board.

The board selected retired longtime MMSD educator Lisa Kvistad as the interim last month. Board member Ali Muldrow said that choice helped her comfort level with the longer timeline.

“There is a need to talk about the importance of next year and what the leadership we have means for next year,” Muldrow said. “I feel like there’s a lot of stability in the interim we’ve selected, so I want to say I’m really confident in Lisa Kvistad’s leadership.”

The shorter timeline would have kept stakeholder input confined to June and allowed for a final decision in September, with the new person likely starting sometime closer to January 2024. Rosen said that would have been appropriate if the board felt the “district is really in need of your next permanent leader as quickly as possible.

“So if it feels like there’s a true need for us to know who the superintendent is going to be, that there’s a sense of unsettledness in the community or among staff that will be supported by knowing that the board is working with urgency, as expeditiously as possible to fill this role by this fall,” Rosen said.

Choosing the candidate in the spring and having them take over in the summer eliminates a potentially tricky decision over when to have a new person start if they are announced in September and coming from another school district. Rosen said the longer timeline would likely attract a wider applicant pool, in addition to making it easier to gather input from the staff, families and the community.

“Your stakeholder engagement, you have a lot more time to plan for it and you’re able to carry it out at a time when people are back in schools and you’ve passed what can be the more hectic, busy times of the year,” Rosen said. “I think you’ll have a stronger candidate pool if you lengthen your process.”

Community input will include open community gatherings, interviews and focus groups for specific people and a survey of staff and community members. That will help form the job profile that will be posted likely sometime in October.

Board member Nicki Vander Meulen initially suggested her support for the shorter timeline, suggesting that staff need stability and she supports choosing a candidate who is as “as local as we can” get. She also expressed concern about workload with the possibility of a referendum in 2024, as the current operating referendum expires after the 2023-24 school year.

Other board members, however, wanted as broad of a candidate pool as possible and to ensure there was sufficient community input time. Vander Meulen eventually said she was OK with the longer search as long as there was transparency, a concept other board members also emphasized.

Board member Laura Simkin said she sees “this process leading us toward somebody who’s going to be hopefully long term.”

“To do that I think our best option is to have a very wide candidate pool, so because of that in particular, I am in favor of the longer timeline,” Simkin said.

Rosen also went over roles for Alma and the board throughout the search, and the board agreed to have President Nichelle Nichols and Muldrow, the most recent president before Nichols, serve as liaisons between the board and Alma. They will handle communication between the firm and the rest of the board and help with decisions that come up between board meetings, such as scheduling.

Four years ago, when then-Superintendent Jen Cheatham left for Harvard, the board announced its next superintendent hire eight-and-a-half months after Cheatham’s announcement — though Matthew Gutiérrez would eventually rescind his acceptance in March amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The timeline the board chose Monday would have Jenkins’ successor announced 13 months after his retirement announcement.

Rosen said the firm hopes to get the board to a place with three finalists they would feel comfortable appointing, and that consistent involvement from all of them throughout the process is key.

“Our goal is that you have a candidate that everyone on the board can unanimously get behind,” Rosen said.

Scott Girard joined the Cap Times in 2019 and covers K-12 education. A Madison native, he graduated from La Follette High School after attending Sennett Middle School and Elvehjem Elementary School during his own K-12 career.

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