Open Versus Closed Search

Open Versus Closed Searches

An open search is one in which members of the community are involved in screening applicants and the interview process.  This can include a variety of  stakeholders within the school community including district staff, parents, students and community members.  Community members do not make the final decision.  They can share their thoughts and preferences but the board makes the final decision.

The challenge with an open search is that the candidate is not guaranteed confidentiality.  With community participation, there is likelihood that confidentiality will be lost and the candidate's current employer will learn that he or she is seeking employment.  This is often a drawback and may keep highly qualified candidates from applying for the position, resulting in a smaller pool of candidates with the qualities the district is seeking.   

With a closed search, the public does not participate directly in the screening or interview process.  In these searches, the consultant will usually meet with members of the community and/or survey the school community to ask for ideas regarding the strengths of the district and the challenges the new superintendent might face.  The consultant will also inquire as to qualities the school community desires in the new superintendent.  A report, summarizing the information is prepared and presented to the board of education for approval.  The information that the community provides helps guide the selection process and takes the place of direct community participation.  

Closed searches have become the norm as they generate a deeper candidate pool since there is less risk of loss of confidentiality.  Candidates can move through the process without risk of exposure in their current district. 

A drawback of a closed search is that the board may face criticism over lack of transparency.  The board must weigh this against the desire to attract a strong pool of candidates.   Communication is especially important in a closed search, including details about the process and timeline.  It's important for the board to clearly state what they are going to do and to do what they said.   
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