UPDATE: Berkley School Board to Interview Superintendent Candidate Tuesday

Community invited to a special session with candidate Dennis McDavid, the district’s current director of Schools and Human Resources, to replace Mike Simeck, who announced Feb. 14 that he will be leaving for new position in Illinois.

The is moving quickly to choose a successor to outgoing superintendent Mike Simeck, for a position in the Chicago area.

The board has invited Dennis McDavid, the district’s current director of Schools and Human Resources, to interview for the superintendent's position, according to a statement from board President Paul J. Ellison. McDavid’s interview will take place during a special session of the Berkley Board of Education at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. 

"The unusual interview time is to accommodate elementary PTA parents and staff who may wish to attend," Ellison said in the statement. "The Berkley Board believes its most important task is hiring a great leader for our District, and we have taken that task very seriously."

Simeck officially offered his resignation, effective July 1, to Berkley school board officials on Feb. 14 after accepting a like position with a school district in Lake Forest, IL, an affluent community along Chicago’s tony North Shore. Simeck’s previous bid for the top job in Bloomfield Hills ended after that district extended an offer to another candidate.

A day after his resignation was accepted, Berkley school board officials held a meeting to discuss how best the district should proceed with the search for Simeck’s successor, as well as to assess whether to continue with initiatives put in placed by the now-outgoing superintendent. 

Ellison, in an email sent to district parents, listed some points considered in making the decision to interview McDavid rather than conduct an external search, including:

  • By mid-February of this year about a dozen other local school districts had already completed superintendent searches or were in the advanced stages of the process. As a result, many of the external candidates reputed to be the “most qualified” are no longer available for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.
  • The search process in many of the other local districts proved to be highly divisive to their communities and very fractious to their districts. At least two districts eventually selected one of their own internal administrators after enduring such divisive searches and expending significant sums on professional search firms.
  • Berkley has an established precedent of selecting internal candidates for the superintendent's position. Of the district’s last five superintendents, three were internal candidates appointed directly by the board.

"We have every reason to believe that Berkley already has 'best-in-the-industry' talent to step in and do great work," Ellison stated. "We believe this decision is the best method to maintain the current momentum of the District, keep its talented administrative team intact, and move forward quickly to continue addressing ongoing initiatives and pressing new challenges."

Glut of openings at districts around Michigan

Berkley Schools’ top job is but one of several leadership positions that have opened up around the state within the last several months, the most notable of which is in Grand Rapids — Michigan’s third largest public school district.

That position, currently being filled on an official “interim” basis by the district’s no. 2 administrator, remains suspended after a search failed to produce viable candidates.

The recent glut of top openings at school districts around the state has been attributed by some to legislation signed last summer by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder that cut primary and secondary education spending in favor of tax breaks geared toward business. Those budget cuts, and the resulting deficits they created for districts, have become a systemic challenge in attracting qualified administrators since there is little individual districts can do to make up shortfalls other than to follow suit and reduce services.

Prior to 1994’s voter-approved Proposal A, which precludes individual school districts from raising taxes to cover education budget shortfalls, a district facing deficits would likely have turned to its residential tax base in an effort to shore up funds.

As for Simeck’s decision to depart, the reported compensation package that Lake Forest offered him, including a yearly base salary of $220,000 plus an additional $30,000 for managing a smaller, secondary district, with other benefits to follow — coupled with an affluent, educated population not facing the deficit restrictions present at his current job — likely didn’t dissuade the educator.

Simek’s predecessor in the role was reportedly the highest paid school superintendent in the state of Illinois, according to the nonprofit Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based libertarian think tank.

If you go

  • What: The Berley Board of Education will interview Dennis McDavid, the district's director of Schools and Human Resources, for the superintendent's position being vacated by current superintendent Mike Simeck at the end of the school year.
  • When: 8:15 p.m. Tuesday 
  • Where: Berkley Board of Education Conference Room at the , 14700 W. Lincoln, Oak Park
  • What else: Members of the community are encouraged to attend special session. An opportunity will be provided for members of the community to submit a limited number of questions to be posed by the board to McDavid.

Come back to Patch for updates on this report.

Angela Tolly March 06, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Here are my thoughts, as to the process to replace the superintendent.... Is the Board proposing that only one candidate is to be considered for Superintendent? This is a very significant position/ decision that should not be made hastily or out of convenience. It was mentioned by Mr. Ellison, Board President, that outside searches can often lead to divisiveness which is a concern given new initiatives in our district. But, doesn't the Board have to approve any changes made to current district policies, curriculum and goals? Also, isn't there a budget in place for these kind of endeavors, i.e. hiring s superintendent? There really aren't any qualified candidates available? I have a hard time believing that. It seems to me that the real issue is money. I am a parent of two school aged children. I want a strong leader who can bring this district into the 21st century with technology upgrades and an overall better learning environment, without adding more out of district students. In other words, someone who has the education, experience, business savvy, charisma, and commitment to get a bond proposal passed. Our buildings are extremely old and need major renovations for safety and instructional purposes ,etc. Our community and kids deserve the best educational opportunities, and leadership. I believe that if the Board is only considering one person for the job then they are doing our community and kids a disservice.
marla jansen March 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
One thing that I do find interesting is that the District getting Mr. Simeck started their search in March of 2011http://www.lfhs.org/superintendent_focus_groups.html with a community survey to invite opinions of what would make a good Superintendent and by their 11/28/11 meeting they had paper copies of resumes to review. I just can't figure out why our search didn't start or appear to start until just now and how it is based on the assumption that the community is happy with status quo. However, Lake Forest is getting what we have have so I suppose that shows how a long process may not provide the outcome they are hoping for either.


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