OPS urged to take its time on new search - Omaha.com
Published Monday, June 4, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:37 pm
OPS urged to take its time on new search

While expressing dismay over the scandal that prompted Nancy Sebring's resignation, Omaha teachers and community leaders say the candidate who is ultimately selected to lead the Omaha district should, like Sebring, have the potential to be a “change agent.”

The search for a new superintendent will start tonight when the Omaha school board meets at the Teacher Administrative Center, 3215 Cuming St. On Saturday, the board held a special meeting to accept Sebring's resignation as OPS's next superintendent.

“We invested a lot of time and energy into the last search process in the hopes of finding a real change agent-type of superintendent. We would hope the district still aspires to do that,” David Brown, president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said Sunday.

He plans to discuss the OPS superintendent job with other chamber leaders either today or Tuesday.

“We have to move forward and find an alternative that will have the same kind of desire to improve the district like she had,” Brown said.

With Sebring out, the school board is back where it was two months ago — looking for a successor for Superintendent John Mackiel, who is retiring after 40 years with the district.

In April, the board voted 11-0 to hire Sebring, the Des Moines superintendent, as the Omaha district's next leader. She resigned Saturday after sexually explicit emails to a male lover, sent via her Des Moines Public Schools email account, were made public.

Des Moines district staff discovered the emails while responding to a public records request from The World-Herald and brought the emails to the attention of the school board's top officials.

After being confronted, Sebring resigned from her Des Moines job May 10. Sebring, who is married, said at the time that she was resigning because she needed additional time to make the transition to the Omaha job. She was to start in Omaha on July 1.

Omaha school board President Freddie Gray said the full board will discuss at tonight's meeting how to proceed. She has declined to speculate on the board's options. District officials have added “superintendent search” to the meeting agenda.

Sebring resigned voluntarily from the Omaha job, and OPS did not pay her a settlement, said district attorney Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda.

Chris Proulx, president of the Omaha Education Association, said the board should name an interim superintendent and use a new consulting firm to lead the search.

“I would like to have a new search firm so that we could have a better chance at having a very strong, deep pool of finalists to sort through,” he said.

Proulx, who supported the board's hiring of Sebring, said OPS has a number of employees who could lead the district while a new search is conducted. “There's a lot to be gained by going through the process over again, giving the community some time to get on board and re-energize that process,” he said.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates conducted the initial search that produced three finalists — Sebring; Daniel Nerad, superintendent of the Madison, Wis., Metropolitan School District; and ReNae Kehrberg, OPS assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Kehrberg remains in her same position at OPS. She declined to comment today on whether she's still interested in the superintendent's job.

Nerad is one of two finalists for the superintendent's job in the Birmingham Public Schools, a suburban Detroit school district with about 8,200 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. He is set to retire from the Madison district in a year.

Mackiel declined to comment today on Sebring's resignation or on whether he might be willing to stay on for another year as superintendent.

Nerad is one of two finalists for the superintendent's job in the Birmingham Public Schools, a suburban Detroit school district with about 8,200 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. He is set to retire from the Madison district in a year.

Marvin Edwards, a senior associate of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates who managed the Omaha search, said the consulting firm would not charge OPS a fee to conduct another superintendent search, except for 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.

“To me, the clause does cover even though she hadn't started yet,” Edwards said of Sebring's resignation.

He said he had not yet talked with OPS board members. Edwards planned to call them today.

OPS paid a $29,500 consulting fee to Hazard, Young. The district's total cost to conduct the search was about $48,130, which included candidates' travel expenses.

Therese Laux, a teacher at Omaha North High School, said she had been looking forward to having Sebring lead OPS.

Laux heard all three finalists speak at public forums in March and believed the district could have benefited from Sebring's experience as the head of an urban district that's similar to OPS.

Laux also wants to see the board appoint an interim leader and start the process over again.

“I don't think it's in anyone's best interest if they rush into a decision,” said Laux, who emphasized that she was speaking for herself, not her school.

Dick Davis, CEO of Davis Cos., said the board conducted an open, collaborative search when Sebring was selected. He wants to see the board follow a similar process this time.

“I assume they will be deliberate, thoughtful and transparent as they have been in the past and make sure that they listen to the community,” he said.

Contact the writer:
402-444-1074, jonathon.braden@owh.com

Contact the writer: Jonathon Braden

jonathon.braden@owh.com    |   402-444-1074    |  

Jonathon writes about education, mostly the Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska's largest district.

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