The Fox Chapel Area School Board has taken the first steps to begin the search for a new superintendent.
At the School Board's Dec. 3, 2019, meeting, newly elected President Somer Obernauer convened a committee to lead the search.
Here is the process that the School Board will follow:
- The Board has already received proposals from three search firms. The committee will ask for proposals from additional firms and then interview and recommend one firm.
- The Board is expected to vote on the recommended search firm at its January meeting.
- Once the search firm is hired by the Board, representatives from the search committee and the firm will reach out to the general public, administrators, teachers and other district employees, and members of the site-based teams to talk about what qualities they are looking for in a superintendent.
- A qualifications letter will be written, and the position will be nationally advertised.
- The committee will review the applications, and the entire Board will interview worthy candidates.
- The Board, as a whole, will then choose three candidates to present to the community. Community members will have the opportunity to meet these three candidates, ask questions, and find out more information about their background and qualifications.
The School Board will consider community input in making its final decision on the district’s next superintendent, which is expected in the spring.
At a special Fox Chapel Area School Board meeting April 28, 2020, School Board President Somer Obernauer Jr. made a motion that the Board elect Dr. Mary Catherine Reljac to serve as the superintendent of the Fox Chapel Area School District for a term of four years beginning August 1, 2020, or when she is released from her responsibilities at the Franklin Regional School District. Board member Ron Frank seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously by the Board.
The Fox Chapel Area Board of School Directors began the search for the district’s next superintendent at the Board’s December 3, 2019, combined meeting, with the selection of the Superintendent Search Committee. The committee was made up of Board members Marybeth Dadd, Mr. Frank (chairperson), and Adam Good. Lisa Rutkowski served as a member of the committee before her resignation from the Board in February.
Mr. Frank made the following comments as part of the April 28 School Board meeting.
"I would like to thank the superintendent search firm of McPherson/Jacobson and, specifically, Dr. Steve Joel and Dr. Marjorie Wallace for their assistance. The personnel from McPherson/Jacobson advised us, carefully guided us, and answered our phone calls, sometimes late at night and multiple times each day. We had 23 applications from both outside Pennsylvania and across our state. Once the number of candidates was narrowed, Board members and stakeholder representatives from the community, as well as teachers, administrators, secretaries, and students interviewed three candidates. As Board members reviewed and discussed their personal thoughts and impressions, and also discussed the comments of the other interviewing stakeholder groups, it was apparent that everyone agreed that Dr. Reljac was the candidate we were looking for and that she should be the next leader of the Fox Chapel Area School District. I would like to mention just a few of the comments from the community, staff, and student representatives that they submitted to the Board following their interviews with Dr. Reljac.
- A true leader, willing to collaborate, admits that she does not need to be correct all of the time. She was believable, confident, and seemed truly passionate about the potential of the job. She hit it out-of-the-park.
- Passionate about the arts
- Notes need for transparency and communication
- Focus on diversity challenges and neighborhood differences
- Understanding of student social and emotional needs, as well as student culture and the value of student input
- Focus on student experience outside academics
- Dislikes meetings, likes conversations
- Data can’t define our district’s work.
- If it goes right, it’s the team. If it goes wrong, it’s the administrator.
- The team needs to know that their strengths are understood, which will engage more people.
- Believes in purposeful visibility – being in school (unannounced), hall/lunch duty, eating and speaking with students, after-school events (not just the big/highly attended ones)
- Her responses were thoughtful, detailed, and genuine and were verified with specific authentic examples.
My personal favorite comment submitted was – she wants to help people to be the best version of themselves.
In addition to McPherson/Jacobson reference checks, our Board committee also did its homework, including soliciting input from her experience as a grad student and administrator.
One quote from a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, and who Dr. Reljac did not use as a reference, was, “Mary Catherine’s remarks are always genuine. This is who she is. There is no doubt in my mind that she will one day become one of the state’s most prominent superintendents. She is a ‘we’ person, a team builder. She has great energy and persistence. She respects our profession and is an educator, first.”
And, with that, on behalf of the Fox Chapel Area School Board Directors, I would like to welcome Dr. Reljac to our district family."• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
4/13/20Following the superintendent interviews with stakeholder groups and School Board members on March 26, the stakeholder group leaders submitted the input from each of their participants. As a reminder, the stakeholder groups included students, community members, teachers, administrators, and secretaries. The Board members reviewed those comments over the weekend of March 27, 28, and 29. School Board members then held an executive session on March 30 to discuss the stakeholder groups' comments, as well as their own individual comments concerning the three candidates. Following that review, also attended online by McPherson & Jacobson representative Dr. Marjorie Wallace, Board members conducted a straw poll about the candidates and made preparations to offer the superintendent position to one of the candidates. Discussions about particulars of a contact are ongoing, and we hope to announce the district's new superintendent at a special Board meeting in the near future.As a footnote, stakeholder group participants were asked to provide feedback on the interview process, and that feedback was forwarded to McPherson & Jacobson.• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
3/26/20The interviews for Fox Chapel Area School District's next superintendent were conducted via an interactive video format on March 26. The administration, employee/staff, and student stakeholder groups were combined into one interview group and conducted a 45-minute interview of each of the three candidates. The community stakeholder group followed the same process. The School Board members, along with a representative from McPherson & Jacobson (the district's superintendent search firm), conducted 90-minute interviews of the candidates. Following the interviews, participants completed an input form detailing impressions of each candidate, and those forms were submitted to McPherson & Jacobson representatives. This information will be compiled and forwarded to the School Board for further review as they continue to finalize a decision on who will be the strongest candidate to be the district's next educational leader.• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
The School Board received a written report summarizing the comments from the stakeholder meetings, grouped by topic and participants (students, parents, community members, administrators, and other district employees). Dr. Steve Joel, the superintendent search consultant, and Dr. Marjorie Wallace shared via videoconference during the Feb. 10 School Board meeting, the report from McPherson & Jacobson and updated the Board on the application process.
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McPherson & Jacobson held a number of stakeholder meetings to gather input on what students, parents, community members, administrators, and other district employees believe are important qualities for the district's next superintendent to have.
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The Superintendent Search Brochure produced by McPherson & Jacobson is now available for public viewing.
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1/27/20The Fox Chapel Area School Board Superintendent Search Committee is holding superintendent search stakeholder meetings on February 6 for various groups within the district. Those unable to attend one of the stakeholder group meetings are invited to participate in an online survey from McPherson & Jacobson that is now available.
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At the Fox Chapel Area School Board December combined agenda study session and regular business meeting, Board President Somer Obernauer appointed a committee of Board members, including Lisa Rutkowski, Adam Goode, Marybeth Dadd, and Ron Frank, to serve as the Superintendent Search Committee. Mr. Frank was appointed as the chairperson of the group.
During the time period of December 4 through January 2, the committee met multiple times and communicated weekly through email. The committee’s first task was to find a firm to help the Board conduct a search for the next superintendent. In order to find the best possible firm, the committee advertised nationally through a variety of written and Internet sources, and then evaluated the submitted proposals and selected two firms for further study. The committee then requested and evaluated additional information from the two firms and conducted two phone conversations with representatives from both search firms.
The committee members are pleased to submit, with confidence, our recommendation that McPherson & Jacobson, L.L.C. is the best firm to assist the school district in this most important task of selecting the next superintendent. McPherson & Jacobson are a national search firm based in Nebraska, but with considerable experience working with Pennsylvania school districts. We requested and received a sample contract from McPherson & Jacobson and submitted the sample to the district's solicitor, Paul Giuffre, for his evaluation. Mr. Giuffre requested three minor changes to the contract and those suggestions were submitted to McPherson & Jacobson representatives. McPherson & Jacobson has resubmitted a contract proposal with those changes incorporated, and I will make a motion to approve that agreement at tonight's meeting.
Dr. Steve Joel, the firm’s national recruiter and a superintendent himself who has conducted numerous superintendent searches, will coordinate the search for McPherson & Jacobson. His first priority will be to conduct meetings with various community and school groups with the goal to identify the strengths of the district and community, the issues facing the new superintendent, and the qualities they would like to see the new superintendent possess. We anticipate at least four different meetings in late February to include the district site-based team (which includes representatives from the individual school site teams), parents, students, district administrators, Fox Chapel Educators Association representatives, employees, and community members.
The McPherson & Jacobson contract will be posted on the district's website, and we will publicize the dates of the upcoming meetings there, as well as on the district's Facebook page.
We will continue to keep everyone informed on the progress of the search as we move forward. And, again, updates will continue to be posted on the district's website and Facebook page and shared at each School Board meeting, throughout the search process.
Search Committee Members
The Superintendent Search Committee comprises four members of the Fox Chapel Area School Board.
Members at Large