New superintendent search underway

With the resignation of Eanes Independent School District superintendent Dr. Nola Wellman, the district began the hunt for her replacement. This set in motion a lengthy process to determine who will lead the district.

The school board has hired one of the nation’s largest executive search firms serving public school districts, named Hazard, Young, Attea, and Associates. The search firm will help the board select candidates. Then the board will make the final executive decision on who will become the next superintendent. Two representatives, associate Rick Berry and associate Peter Flynn, have been chosen to help the board of trustees in the search.

“The superintendent will be facing many challenges once they come into office,” Flynn said. “Of course, the board will be there to help the superintendent make the hard decisions, but there will definitely be changes. Right now there are some big challenges facing the district as we have discussed, meaning big changes will most likely occur with a new superintendent.”

A superintendent is basically the functioning head of the school district. He or she makes direct choices on what materials students will learn in class, where the school budget goes, how the school runs and who works at the school.

“As the CEO of the school district, the superintendent has the greatest impact overall,” Board of Trustees vice president Beau Ross said. “What type of impact?  I don’t know yet.  Simply maintaining the high standard of academic excellence will be big.  Improving it will be a home run.”

Several students gave their opinion on what a superintendent does and what they think will happen when a new one is selected.

“The superintendent of a school is largely responsible for the decision-making of our school,” sophomore Garrett Wang said. “While we may be getting a new superintendent, I don’t believe much change will occur because currently, I think the majority of Westlake students are satisfied.”

There are many ways students, parents and faculty alike can contribute to the effort. Posted on the front page of was a survey that gave representation to all members of the district including teachers, students and administrators. The survey offered a chance to pick the eight “desired characteristics” of future candidates. With choices like “Holds a deep appreciation for diversity and the importance of providing safe and caring school environments,” the survey was only an aid to give the board an idea of what the future superintendent should know about what the districts needs. The second page of the survey offered a place to suggest possible candidates or voice further questions to the board.

“At this time, we are developing a Leadership Profile that will specify the desired characteristics of the ideal candidate,” Ross said. “The Board will finalize the list around Feb. 4. We are looking for the outstanding characteristics modeled by our current superintendent, Dr. Nola Wellman.”

Both Flynn and Berry have perfected their process of finding candidates by traveling across the United States and helping many school districts along the way. Their first steps were using a survey and public input meetings as a source to gather information. Now they must process what information they have collected.

“We gather and compile all of the information from what all of the participants chose,” Flynn said. “From teachers, to administrators, to students, we look at what eight characteristics people chose and see what the most desired characteristics are. By last week we have already had 100 applications turned in, and soon we will start to go through the surveys. After we look at the information, we will have around 50 candidates. We will do extensive background checks on those candidates and the board will pick 12. Once those 12 are chosen, we [ Rick Berry, Peter Flynn] will personally interview the candidates and by the end of March, hope to have identified the new superintendent.”

The new superintendent must choose what the most pressing issue of the district is before addressing other concerns.

“[The biggest task the superintendent faces] depends on your perspective,” Ross said. “Various [proposed challenges] will focus on academics, extra-curricular activities, a school campus, etc. From my Board perspective, the biggest challenge will be the budget. If we had to cut our spending to match our revenue, it could have a significant negative impact. This is an on-going challenge of the Board and the administration.”

The district will need someone who is professional and qualified to be able to solve the challenges that he will be facing. Both Flynn and Berry were former superintendents, giving them hands-on insight of what a good candidate will look like. But for the process to be most effective they will need district support. At the meeting on Jan. 13, only 13 people showed up. If the district wants someone who values what they have to say, more cooperation is needed. People who still want to make contributions to this effort can contact HYA and the board of trustees through the on their profile pages.

“Every little bit of input helps us in our search,” Berry said. “The communities’ voice does matter, and we hope to receive as much community input as possible.”