LINCOLN — The search to replace Nebraska's top educator will be national in scope, but history teaches that scouring the country doesn't always bring in an outsider.
“It truly is going to be a national search,” Pat Timm, Nebraska Board of Education president, said Thursday of the plan to replace retiring Education Commissioner Roger Breed.
The search that landed Breed five years ago also was national. He came from the Elkhorn Public Schools in Nebraska, where he was superintendent.
The man he replaced, Doug Christensen, was hired from within the Nebraska Department of Education. Christensen was deputy commissioner and had formerly been superintendent of the North Platte Public Schools in Nebraska.
Christensen served from 1994 to 2008.
He replaced Joe Lutjeharms, who held the position from 1982 to 1994. Lutjeharms said he groomed Christensen to take over.
The board has tapped Proact Search to find the next commissioner, at a cost of $25,000 plus up to $4,000 in expenses.
Proact Search is the same company that conducted the national search that secured Mark Evans of Andover, Kan., as the next superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools.
Company officials will contact the eight board members individually over the next few weeks to solicit their ideas on what type of person they want as the next commissioner.
Once a profile of the preferred candidate is developed, the marketing and recruitment will get going later this summer.
Proact will tap its national connections and place advertisements in regional newspapers, education publications and on websites. The application deadline will be in November. The board will interview finalists in December and select the new commissioner in January.
There will be opportunity for public input through an online survey, Timm said.
Board member John Sieler said he wants to make sure that potential candidates from within the department and the state have an opportunity to apply.
Board member Rachel Wise said the profile will determine who applies.
Under state law, when the applicant list is reduced to four or fewer finalists, their names and résumés must be made public.
Breed is retiring at the end of this month.
That means the department could be without a commissioner for at least six months or possibly longer, depending on the start date negotiated with the new commissioner.
To cover the workload, the board is planning to bring back a former administrator to assist in the department.
The board is expected today to hire Marilyn Peterson to assist with administration at $60 an hour, up to 1,152 hours — for a maximum of $80,100.
The commissioner enforces state education rules, manages the Nebraska Department of Education and reports to the state board.
On Breed's watch, the department spent much of its time writing academic standards and developing and rolling out a new battery of standardized tests tied to an accountability system.
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