Northshore School District receives nearly two dozen applications for superintendent

by Kevin Opsahl |

As the deadline closes in for candidates who want to be the next superintendent of the Northshore School District, the school board has received around 20 applications, but could expect a few more in the coming days.

Board President Jacqueline McGourty provided that information to the Weekly in a recent interview about the search to find a permanent leader for the Northshore School District. Michael Tolley has served in an interim capacity since Michelle Reid left at the end of the 2021-22 school year to lead Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

“We anticipate 30-plus total applications and I think that’s pretty good,” McGourty said, noting that candidates are known to submit applications closer to the deadline. “We have been informed that we’re getting applications from around the country, so there are a lot of seated superintendents who are interested in coming to Northshore. It’s exciting.”

The deadline for applications is Feb. 6, according to a timeline of the search posted on the district’s website. With the help of Arizona-based consulting firm GR Recruiting, the board has been recruiting candidates since Dec. 16. A representative with the firm declined comment, saying all communications on the matter must come from the board chair or Carri Campbell, executive director of communications for the district.

Campbell told the Weekly in an email that the district could not provide additional details about the search results.

“It is a confidential process, and we are competing with many other districts for a limited pool of candidates. We need to preserve the integrity of the application process,” Campbell wrote. “As soon as additional information becomes available, we will let the media and the public know.”

Though applications are due in early February, the board won’t even begin “top candidate interviews” until the last day of the month, according to the timeline for the search on the district’s website. McGourty said this gap is meant to give the consulting firm time to comb through applications and conduct background checks on candidates before they go through interviews with the board.

“It is tough,” McGourty said. “We hope to take all of those applications and narrow it down to five or six for first-round interviews … It would be a great position to be in if we have so many applications that it would be difficult to narrow it down that far.”

The first-round interviews are scheduled to be held from Feb. 28-March 2.

“This will be completely confidential,” McGourty said.

From March 13-17, second round interviews will take place, reserved only for finalists who made it through the first.

“Each one will come in; there will be a town hall so the community has a chance to ask questions of them,” McGourty said. “Those interviews will be public so people will really be able to see what’s going on.”

The board chair noted that people can call or email the board at any time during the superintendent search to provide their feedback.

“The more [feedback], the better,” she said.

Even though McGourty feels the district has a healthy number of applications, she is mindful of the fact that many superintendents have “left the field,” in part because of the impact the pandemic has had on education.

The board president didn’t mention a specific report, but The New York Times covered superintendent burnout in 2021, even before many school districts returned to full in-person learning.

The story’s headline, “School Superintendents Are Superstressed”, including a subhed, “After this pandemic year, several superintendents across the country are leaving their jobs”. The article reported that Austin Beutner, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, planned to leave at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

McGourty noted she had not spoken to specific school leaders about the factors that led them to leave, but she admitted “there’s been a lot of burnout.”

That said, McGourty went on to say, “I am not too concerned. I think the Northshore School District will always attract good candidates.”

A key attribute of the next superintendent would be whether that person would commit to Northshore schools for a decent length of time, the board president said.

“It is absolutely critical that we find the very best candidate we can find for the position irrespective of what’s going on in the district at the time,” McGourty said. “I think right now the district is pretty healthy and we’re in a good spot.”