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PELL CITY – Members of the Pell City Board of Education met with an official from the Alabama Association of School Boards to discuss the process of finding a new superintendent.

“This is one of the most critical decisions you will make as a school board,” Sally Smith, AASB executive director, told board members during Tuesday night’s work session at the Central Office.

The board met with Smith for about an hour as she went through what to do and what not to do in the search.

“It’s a big decision,” she said. “You can serve on a board and never select a superintendent.”

Smith walked the board through several issues, including finding an interim superintendent to fill in until a permanent replacement is selected.

The board’s search was triggered by incumbent Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber announcing last month he was retiring, effective July 1.

Barber took over as the superintendent six years ago after serving as an assistant superintendent within the system for 16 years.

Smith said AASB would assist the board, but the organization does offer a search service at a charge to school boards that are searching for a superintendent.

She said the board needs to decide what characteristics it wants in a new superintendent.

“What skills and attributes are important for you in your next leader,” Smith said, adding that most people are not great at everything.

“You aren’t going to find a clone of Michael Barber,” she said.

Smith said the board needed to determine its challenges for the next five to 10 years and focus on what kind of leader will be needed to takethe school system through that period.

She said AASB has a list of retired superintendents who could fill in as the interim until a permanent superintendent is found.

Smith said the search process needs to be open, and the community should be afforded an opportunity to address the board as to what it would like to see in a new superintendent. Surveys can be offered to the faculty and public to gain insight.

She warned the board about taking the search behind closed doors through serial meetings, which could taint the process.

Smith said all interviews must be done in an open forum, and candidates should be asked the same questions, as well as provided all questions in advance.

A search service, she said, can narrow the list of candidates down to the four or five the board will interview.

The board made no decisions Tuesday night.

The superintendent’s job has been posted, and applications are being accepted at a law firm in Birmingham.

The board is slated to meet at 6 p.m., Tuesday, at which time it could decide whether to hire a firm to help conduct the search  and move forward with hiring an interim superintendent.