Jackson Public Schools will use a search firm to conduct a national search for the district’s next superintendent.

The decision was made at a board of trustees meeting Tuesday night. Board members had the option to keep the search local or regional, but decided a national search would offer a variety of options without excluding local candidates, like interim superintendent Freddrick Murray.

School Board President Beneta Burt announced former superintendent Cedrick Gray was retiring on Oct 28. The move came in the wake of an F rating by the state’s accountability system and a potential downgrade of the school district’s accreditation status.

Board member Kimberly Campbell made the motion to conduct a national search, because she “would like to cast the net was wide as possible to gain the most qualified people.” The next superintendent “could be somebody here, but I don’t want to just say in Mississippi or regional,” she said.

After the board voted on the geographical scope of the search, members spent more than 30 minutes discussing the particulars of the request for proposal, which was not available to the public Tuesday night.

Board member Jed Oppenheim, who was not present but phoned in to the meeting, wanted to tighten the request for proposal’s language to include specifics about the search firm’s qualifications for picking a candidate. Burt said much of what Oppenheim requested was already included in the document, but the board amended it to only accept applicants with a minimum of 10 years experience in the head-hunting business.

“Are they matching the district with personnel? I think that’s what were really looking for,” board member Camille Stutts Simms said. “Don’t bring us a half-prepared person, we want quality individuals that are able to take on such a task as understanding what our districts idiosyncrasies are, our demographics.”

Board counsel Dorian Turner told the board she knew of three local firms who might be considered, as well as four to six national firms referred to her by the National School Board Association the last time there the district conducted a superintendent search.

Burt vowed to continue to keep the search process transparent and acknowledged the district was in “very unusual times.”

“I think that we all understand the gravity of the situation and where we are, and the importance of where we are,” Burt said.

State education officials have told the district it needs to address deficiencies noted in the most recent accreditation report or face a takeover of the district by the state.

Tuesday night’s meeting did not feature any discussion of what the district is looking for in a candidate, but Burt told the audience of about 50 during the meeting that the community will be able to provide feedback on qualities they would like in their next superintendent on the district website soon.

After the meeting, Burt said the board is looking for a dynamic individual who is academically prepared and community oriented. Once a search firm is picked and candidates are interviewed, the community will likely be able to meet them in a series of community meetings and information sessions, Burt said. She hopes they can make a decision on the next superintendent over the summer.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.