School Board Chairman Claire M. Eberwein said that 18 people have formally applied for the job Perry left Jan. 18 and that search consultants indicate eight are highly qualified. More possible candidates have been identified from a pool of 141 people who expressed interest. The application deadline is Feb. 19.
Experts aren’t surprised that the job is drawing interest despite Perry’s abrupt exit after more than six years. They credit the attractiveness of Alexandria and the surrounding region as a place to work and live.
In May, the board voted 5 to 4 to seek a new schools chief. The way Perry was suddenly removed caused consternation among some residents. Minutes after she left, a locksmith changed the locks.
“There was widespread dismay at how the process went,” said Kitty Porterfield, a 29-year employee of Northern Virginia school systems and author of a new book, “Getting It Right: Why Good School Communication Matters.” She said, “The community is very wary now.”
Looking ahead, William Campbell, a PTA president and a member of the superintendent advisory search committee, said he wants a superintendent who did not rise through the traditional school ranks, perhaps a chief executive of a business.
Houston said some school systems have recruited such candidates recently with mixed results. “Some of them have been a disaster,” Houston said. “The jury’s still out on that model.”
Finding a superintendent these days isn’t easy, despite the hefty salary the position commands, experts say. For the Alexandria job, the board is advertising an annual salary of about $230,000 and a “comprehensive and competitive” benefits package.
“The superintendency has lost a lot of its luster,” said Jay P. Goldman, editor of the school administrator association’s magazine. “There was a time, not that long ago, when the pinnacle of one’s career would be to rise to superintendent. That day is gone.”
Goldman said many educators now view the top job in a school district as “an impossible, can’t-win position. They’re often brought in as the knight in shining armor. Expectations are unreal. Communities expect overnight success and every ill solved in a year or two.”