School principal candidates face rigorous process


Staff writer

It’s not exactly “American Idol,” but the process of selecting new principals in the Central Kitsap School District shares some similarities.

Multiple rigorous interviews? Check.

Candidates put through the ringer by industry professionals? Check.

Highly secretive selection results? Check.

Legions of adoring teenage fans? ... Alright, maybe that’s where the similarities end.

Nevertheless, it’s a thorough and delicate process that’s ultimately subject to a typically unforgiving group: concerned parents of students.

This year is one of the bigger ones in district history; five vacancies have opened up for next school year. Central Kitsap High School, Central Kitsap Junior High, Cottonwood Elementary, Green Mountain Elementary and Silverdale Elementary will all have new principals this fall and the grunt work to find them is happening right now.

“It’s that time of year (and) this is a big year,” Executive Director of Human Resources Jeanne Beckon said.

Beckon is one of the many district employees involved in the process of selecting new school principals and she’ll have her hands full during the next several weeks.

“You’re gonna be a busy lady,” Superintendent Greg Lynch commented to Beckon, sticking his head into her office Monday afternoon.

The process starts on the simple end; jobs, in this case, are posted and a staff is assembled to screen the resumés that come in. At the same time, district staffers head out to the respective schools and start interviewing the people who will be most concerned by the job switch: employees and parents.

A general question is posed to them, Beckon said: “Talk to us about the attributes and qualities you want in a principal.”

Input is gathered and kept on hand to be considered by the screening and interview team at the next interval in the process. That team is comprised of classified and certificated staff, community members and in the case of a high school vacancy, a student, as well.

It’s the team’s responsibility to find candidates who are qualified for their respective jobs and also potential good fits for the schools they might be headed for.

“Those classified and certificated staff members that sit on the team have a great responsibility to their colleagues at the buildings,” Beckon said.

They’re also a tangible link to the schools that are undergoing a change in leader.

“Those people, they’re the stakeholders and they have a personal interest in choosing the right person,” CKJH Principal Franklyn MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie is one of the outgoing principals, having accepted a job as human resources director for CKSD next school year, and has had first-hand experience in the interviewing process.

The various stakeholders on the screening team sort through whatever candidates have been preselected as qualified and screen them against the suggestions of staff members and parents. From there, background checks are made and candidates — usually about six per open position — are brought in for interviews.

Then things get a little secretive.

For purposes of keeping candidates on their toes for a potential interview, the district likes to play its process close to the vest. They go quite a way to do so.

“There’s a lot of no talk once we go out there and get candidates until a decision is made,” Beckon said.

Staffers involved in the decision process are even required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Washington state law also requires that certain processes remain secret.

What is known is that candidates are put through multiple rounds of interviews. The first interview is done by the screening and interview team, but a candidate then has to make it through cabinet-level interviews and an interview with the superintendent.

“It’s a thorough process,” Beckon said. “You have lots of different lenses looking at a candidate.”

Lynch has the final say on who gets picked and the whole process takes about five to six weeks.

Despite the secrecy, MacKenzie was able to assure that the whole process is rigorous. How rigorous?

“Pretty rigorous. You lose a little bit of sleep thinking about it,” he said.

On the upside, however, there’s no cynical British guy criticizing the candidates the whole way through.

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