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Speculation grows over schools chief in Dallas

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is expected to announce today that he is leaving his position, fueling speculation that he might be considering the Clark County School District’s top job.

Hinojosa’s expected departure comes as the search firm for the School Board is scheduled to announce three finalists for the position of district superintendent at
3 p.m. today .

The Texas superintendent’s name was forwarded to the McPherson & Jacobson firm by Clark County School Board President Terri Janison at the recommendation of Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, according to board e-mail obtained by the Review-Journal.

Hinojosa has led the nation’s 14th-largest school district with 160,000 students since 2005. If he is tapped for the Clark County job, he would be taking over a system almost twice that size. Clark County is the nation’s fifth-largest district with 309,000 students.

Hinojosa could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but the Dallas Business Journal quoted three sources as saying he was expected to announce his resignation in Dallas today .

Speculation about Hinojosa and others is rampant among Clark County School District insiders wondering about possible successors for retiring Superintendent Walt Rulffes.

Local candidate Jim Rogers, who was told Tuesday that he was not a finalist, said the search firm described the top candidates as “three sitting superintendents.”

Spokesmen for Jerry Weast, superintendent of Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools, and Beverly Hall, superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, denied rumors that the two are candidates for the Clark County job.

Mary Ellen Elia, superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, confirmed to the Review-Journal that she was approached about the Clark County position but said she was committed to staying in the Tampa Bay area.

McPherson & Jacobson has withheld the names of the 49 superintendent applicants to protect their privacy. Janison has justified the secrecy as necessary to encourage people to apply.

But Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, has blasted the process for its lack of transparency, saying the secrecy undermines public confidence in the district.

Augspurger also said the School Board and not “four guys from Nebraska” should be selecting the three finalists. The search firm is based in Omaha, Neb.

“I think they (the board members) have abdicated their responsibility,” he said.

The public soon will be able to judge the finalists for themselves.

According to a preliminary schedule, the three finalists will be in Clark County next week, between Tuesday and Thursday . They will meet Wednesday with stakeholders such as district employees, School Board members and business groups.

An “open community forum” is scheduled from 3:45 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Harmon Elementary School, 5351 Hillsboro Lane, near Hacienda Avenue and Mountain Vista Street.

A second forum is scheduled Wednesday between 6:45 and 9 p.m. at Cimarron-Memorial High School, 2301 N. Tenaya Way, near Lake Mead Boulevard.

During the forums, each candidate will be given 45 minutes to meet with the public.

On Sept. 23, the School Board will conduct formal candidate interviews between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each interview is expected to last for two hours.

The School Board’s goal is to announce a new superintendent by mid-October.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.

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