In Carson: Controversy over school superintendent selection process bubbles up

While Carson City School District officials, administration, staff and volunteers are still getting used to the notion that Supt. Mary Pierczynski will not be back at the helm of the district next fall, a controversy over how her successor will be selected and the transparency of that process has ensued.

In an open letter written last week, Joe Enge, a member of the school board, said he was "concerned" with the way the selection process for a new superintendent has been handled thus far.

"Superintendent selection was on the agenda for the Board's February 12th meeting," he wrote. "It was the last substantive item of a long meeting, and only a few hearty concerned citizens persevered to speak on the topic.

"I was concerned by three elements during the Board's discussion: the rush to select someone without criteria or a search, the appearance of prior coordination to that end, and the board's dismissive attitude towards public input."

The public's last chance to have its voice heard on the selection process is at Tuesday's school board meeting at 7 p.m. in the Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center.

Richard Stokes, a current human resources director for the district, appears to be the leading candidate for the job.

While Enge said he has "nothing but the greatest personal and professional respect for (Stokes)," he believes an open selection process is crucial.

"A closed, rushed selection will be a disservice to any superintendent candidate," he said. "We do not need to leave an unnecessary aura of favoritism on a candidate who clearly is deserving of such a position based on his merits.

"We do need to use this opportunity as a district to question, review and define our educational priorities."

Indeed, on the most recent school board agenda for Tuesday's meeting, which the Appeal obtained Thursday, it appears the hiring of Stokes is but a foregone conclusion.

The agenda reads: "Discussion and possible action to authorize contract negotiations with Richard W. Stokes, associate superintendent, human resources, for the position of superintendent of the Carson City School District following the retirement of superintendent Dr. Mary Pierczynski, or alternatively, discussion and possible action on the process for the selection of a new superintendent."

The agenda item is one in which the board is expected to take action; it is the last part - a discussion of the selection - that Enge is hoping most to invoke.

"An open selection process may very well confirm (Stokes) as an excellent choice" he said. "(But) we do need to engage the public to develop citizens' priorities and to demonstrate that your views are not only sought when asking for bond money or electing school board members."

Though loathe to comment on the selection process, Pierczynski, in January, said she announced her retirement early so the district, its constituents and the board would have plenty of time to select the right candidate and to plan for the transition.

"I still have several months left," she said. "We're not going to lose focus on what we're doing."


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