The most important role a "sitting" Board has is to assure a smooth transition for the Superintendent and the "new" Board by providing the appropriate amount of time to work together before making a contract decision. This would apply whether there are 3 new Commissioners or an all new Board. It is their role to assure a smooth transition.
If they extended the Superintendent's contract for one year to June 2011, the "new" Board will work with the Superintendent for 6 months before deciding on whether to extend for the normal period of 3 years or to part ways and start a search for a new Superintendent. That's it, 6 months of working with and evaluating the Superintendent before the "new" Board would make a decision. That is a very short time frame if there is substantial change in the composition of the Board. There may be only one new board member with any experience in holding political office. No matter how well the new board members think they know the organization, they don't know it - they can't know it. It takes time and that time should be spent working with the staff that runs the organization.
If the Board and the Superintendent part ways in the future, it is critical that the departure is amiable. A dismissal without cause will result in a very, very difficult search process. Park professionals would not risk their career with a Board that would dismiss a Superintendent without cause. The search would attract those in the profession that "career hop" staying for 3-4 years and moving on. Our history has been to retain Superintendents; our recent pattern has been to not retain Superintendents. This is the trend of a troubled organization and it will again lead to a very difficult search. People in this profession network with each other and they all know what positions were "career killers" and which positions had good Boards to work for. You don't want the reputation of being a "career killer" in the Park profession.
If the Board can work through an amiable separation in the future with the Superintendent, then he can aid in the search and put a positive perspective on the Board and the position. With the connections that the current Superintendent has within the State and National associations - he will be extremely influential in the search process. That is normally the first step of any candidate for the position - to search out the reason that last person left and determine if it is a good organization to work for.
The alternative is to hire someone that is not in the Park profession such as the Library Board did with their last Library Director.
The reason that Park Board staff came to the contract extension study session is that they strongly support the current Superintendent. That trust was built; it does not come with the position. We have a highly motivated and hard working staff - they want to know what issues that Board has with the current Superintendent. They did not get any critical comments on the current Superintendent at the last meeting. Leading this organization is an extremely important and demanding position. The current Superintendent, by all measures, has done an excellent job of leading the staff so they can do their jobs. I that type leadership deserves respect and thanks.
Some have said that selecting the Superintendent is one of the most important things the Board does. I agree with that. Another important thing is to do what is right for the organization that you represent rather than make politically expedient decisions. I hope the new board has the knowledge and will to make the right decision for our system.