INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Board Chairman Laura Zorc of the School District of Indian River County wishes the district could keep interim superintendent Dr. Susan Moxley, but she knows those days are numbered.
“We adore Dr. Moxley,” Ms. Zorc told Hometown News. “She is top-notch, very experienced, even-keeled. There’s nothing that throws her off. She made a commitment to us for one year. She’s given 38 years to education, and she had been in retirement for three years. She loves Indian River County and has worked well with the board, but I think she and her husband are ready to enjoy retirement.”
So despite the board’s apparent happiness with Dr. Moxley, the search for a new superintendent is continuing.
“On Sept. 24, the board outlined the desired characteristics, and we created the leadership profile based on all the forums and focus groups that were held,” Ms. Zorc said. “Our consultant compiled what type of leaders our community is expecting.”
The board held a variety of focus groups and public forums, with inconsistent participation.
“The focus groups were parents, teachers, administrators, those went really well because there was good participation. We would have liked to have seen more participation at our public forums with the community; it wasn’t what we were hoping.”
In addition to those forums and focus groups, the board had an online survey that many people participated in, offering input on the characteristics desired in the new superintendent. The board is still receiving community input, which will be passed on to the consultants leading the search, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates.
“As we start to interview, we will keep in mind what attributes and characteristics the community has expressed to us. From Sept. 25-Oct. 25, the portal is open for applications. On Nov. 6, the board will meet to discuss who we want to interview on Nov. 14. They will be the semi-finalists. We’re going to choose six to eight candidates, could be more, could be less. It depends on how strong the individuals are that apply.”
“We also know that a lot of people interview better than what you see on paper. So we don’t want to rule people out.”
From the semi-finalists, the board will identify three or four candidates as finalists. They will be interviewed again on Nov. 16.
“Between Nov. 14-16, the finalists will be here in town, and they will really get a feel for Indian River County. We’ll have staff take them around and introduce them to the campuses. They have to love Indian River County as much as we do. So that Friday will be the opportunity for them to get to know the Indian River School District.”
Ms. Zorc seems very happy about how the process is going, though she kept coming back to how much she likes Dr. Moxley.
“I’m very optimistic, because everything is falling right into place, according to what the timeline is. At this point we are right on target. I think we’ve been very strategic in not waiting. Dr. Moxley’s contract is over in May. Originally, because she’s doing such a fantastic job, we wanted to keep her here as long as we could.”
As it appears Dr. Moxley will not stay, Ms. Zorc said she has been very useful in helping guide the board through the process, including identifying the district’s competition for the best candidate.
“There are about five other school districts in Florida that are in current superintendent search mode, like us,” Ms. Zorc said. “Dr. Moxley very wisely came to the board and said ‘I love being here, but here’s what you’re faced with.’ She let us know that Flagler, Volusia, Hillsboro, and a few other counties are competing against us for the candidates, and starting their searches, and we need to get ahead of them so we can choose the cream of the crop.”
“I’ve been keeping track of what those other counties are doing, and we are now a couple of steps ahead of them, so I feel like we are being very strategic.”
Ms. Zorc feels that Indian River County is very competitive in going after the best candidates.
“For one county, the package is between $135,000-175,000. Our package is in the range of $175,000, and we’re open to negotiations. If we get the right candidate, we are ready to be very open to making sure we don’t lose that candidate. At the end of the day, you might get someone for a few thousand dollars less, but, in the long run, we want the candidate to help us become more efficient, and that might mean spending a few thousand dollars more to find someone that has good financial expertise. So we’re not going to take anything off the table at this point.”
Concerning the type of candidate the board seeks, Ms. Zorc said there is general agreement regarding the district’s strengths and weaknesses.
“One of those weaknesses is culture and climate of the entire school district. Whoever comes in will have to be a good communicator, very gracious and humble, like Dr. Moxley. I believe, and I keep hearing from others, that we want someone just like Dr. Moxley. She’s knowledgeable, gracious, and kind. We all want someone that’s open to working with our community partners. In terms of what we’re looking for, I think there is general agreement.”
The board wants the next superintendent to finally resolve the long-standing civil rights battle that has hung over the district since the 1970s.
“Dr. Moxley understands how much time and money we’ve spent. This has been going on too long, and it needs to be a priority of whoever comes in. Negotiations have been weak, so the person that comes in has to have some negotiation skills, so we don’t find ourselves in an impasse or a stalemate with employees. That all comes back to culture and climate.”
“Yes we’ve been hammered for spending a lot of money on it, but we are doing everything possible that we know we should be doing. It’s really going to take a superintendent to carry the ball forward.”
Overall, Ms. Zorc feels very good about the process.
“I’m excited and eager to look at the candidates. When we sent out notice for the interim superintendent, we had about 65 applicants, and about 20 of those were really strong. We had a great pool. Probably five of those would have done a great job. While they saw the problems we have, they also saw that the problems are fixable.”
“We have such a close-knit community, I think anybody would be fortunate to come here. We want someone who can come in and hit the ground running, not on the job training, we can’t afford that.”
To give input on the superintendent search, send an email to the school board’s executive assistant Nancy Esplen, Nancy.Esplen@indianriverschools.org, and she will share it with the entire board.