The superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District will leave for another job after just four years with the district.
When he was hired for the job in 2015, many community members hoped and expected Brad Buck would lead the district for many years to come. He’s a Jefferson High School graduate, educated at Iowa’s public universities and the former director of the Iowa Department of Education.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Buck has been tapped to serve as the superintendent in Waukee, a growing school district where Buck previously worked as an associate superintendent.
Cedar Rapids officials announced this week Deputy Superintendent Noreen Bush will serve as interim superintendent starting in July. From there, the district will “progress into a robust superintendent search and succession plan.”
As that plan takes shape, we urge district leaders to prioritize transparency. The board was right to seek a generational leader when it hired Buck, and should do so again this time.
While Buck was a good fit for the district, the process used to hire him was sorely lacking in openness and public input.
School board members met privately with candidates, and there were no community forums for parents to meet the prospective superintendents.
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At least 12 other Iowa school districts also used closed processes in recent years, a 2016 Gazette investigation revealed. Waukee used an open hiring process this year, and Buck was publicly announced as a finalist last month.
Defenders of closed hiring processes say this approach helps attract applicants who would otherwise not apply because they fear backlash when their current employers find out they are searching for jobs. Buck has said he likely would not have applied if it had been an open search.
That rationale might make sense in the private sector, but it’s not appropriate for taxpayer-funded enterprises. Transparency should be a fundamental philosophy for local governments, even when it is inconvenient.
Community members must understand the importance of the upcoming search and what it can mean for the health and vibrancy of the state’s second-largest school district.
A generational leader will not shy away from a public hiring process. Such a person will understand the broad community support necessary to be effective.
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