Call it a do-over.
The Omaha school board will once again conduct a national search for a new superintendent.
The school board voted 12-0 Monday night to name an interim superintendent as it looks for a new leader to replace John Mackiel, who is retiring after 40 years with the district.
An interim superintendent was not named Monday, and no time table was set for the search process.
Freddie Gray, president of the Omaha school board, said the board hasn't decided yet whether the interim superintendent would be a current Omaha Public Schools employee or someone from outside the district.
The board met in closed session for two and a half hours Monday. It was the first time the board has come together since a hastily-called meeting Saturday to accept the resignation of Nancy Sebring, who became embroiled in a scandal over racy e-mails.
Sebring, the former superintendent of the Des Moines school district, resigned the Omaha post after sexually explicit emails to a male lover, sent via her Des Moines Public Schools email account, were made public. She had been scheduled to start as Omaha's superintendent July 1.
Gray said she wants to be sure the board considers any qualified candidates who may have been missed in the last superintendent search.
“The board wants to look at the people who are out there that would fit the criteria that's already been established by the community and the board,” she said. “We will be looking for those same characteristics.”
During the last search that culminated in Sebring's hiring, the board identified several key traits that its next superintendent should have: be a strong communicator; be a good listener who sets high expectations for students and staff; and have previous experience in a high-level job at a diverse school district.
The head of the Omaha teachers union has urged the board to conduct a national search, though he suggested the board use a new search firm to get a deep pool of finalists.
Gray said she's not sure yet which consulting firm the board will use. She declined to comment on the performance of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, which conducted the initial search that produced Sebring as one of the finalists.
Marvin Edwards, a senior associate with the firm, has said the consulting firm would not charge OPS a fee to conduct another search, though the district would have to pay any expenses. The firm advertises that it will waive the consulting fee for a new search if the superintendent leaves the position within a year of starting the job.
Prior to the board's vote, Willie Barney, president of the Empowerment Network, urged board members to take some time as they consider their next steps.
“Can we all just take a deep breath as a community, as a school board,” he said.
About 60 people were in the audience for Monday's school board meeting, and 10 people urged the board to name ReNae Kehrberg, OPS assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, as Omaha's next superintendent.
“Serve the public by appointing Dr. Kehrberg as our next superintendent,” said Tim Butz, assistant director of the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska.
Kehrberg was one of three finalists for the superintendent's job when the board voted in April to hire Sebring.
The other finalist was Daniel Nerad, superintendent of the Madison, Wis., Metropolitan School District. He is scheduled to interview this week for the superintendent's job in the Birmingham Public Schools, a suburban Detroit school district.
Kehrberg remains in her same position at OPS. She declined to comment Monday on whether she's still interested in the superintendent's job.
But her supporters urged the school board to hire the 30-year OPS employee as the district's next superintendent.
“If the board is looking for a true change agent, Dr. Kehrberg is that person,” said Terry Burton, principal at Benson West Elementary School. “With her, there would be no surprises. We all know what we are getting.”
Mackiel declined to comment Monday on Sebring's resignation or on whether he might be willing to stay on for another year as superintendent.
Mackiel, however, has a four-year contract to be a full-time professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Educational Administration.
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