Board members got some advice Jan. 12 on how to go about searching for a new superintendent, and took the first step toward beginning the search process.

The need to find a new superintendent arose after Superintendent Joe Mattos announced last month that he plans to retire at the end of September. Some of the school board members are already familiar with the process of hiring a new superintendent, as they were on the board when Mattos was hired in the spring of 2007.

Sandra MacArthur, who serves as both executive director of the Maine School Superintendents Association and deputy executive director of the Maine School Management Association, told the board Monday night that it needed to answer some questions in order to determine what the process should look like.

Among those questions, she said, are whether the district will hire an organization to help recruit applicants, what the involvement of the current superintendent will be in the process, whether or not a search subcommittee will be formed, and if so, who will be on it.

A question that has sprung up in recent years, McArthur said, is whether the district will reimburse candidates for their travel expenses. She said that is becoming a bigger issue, as more districts in Maine see applicants from out of state.

Other questions include what qualifications are desired in a new superintendent, what community input will be sought and how it will be gathered, and what  the terms of employment (including salary and benefits) will be when a finalist is selected.

“Even though the economy isn’t doing well … we are still seeing increases occur,” MacArthur said, with regard to salary and benefits.

Vice Chairwoman Katherine Eickenberg asked what effect consolidation was having on superintendent searches around the state. Eickenberg wondered if, since there were fewer superintendent positions to be had than there were prior to consolidation, that meant that there were more out-of-work superintendents looking for jobs. MacArthur said that was not the case.

“We are not seeing as many applicants,” she said, noting that many superintendents simply retired when consolidation went into effect. She said while superintendent searches in previous years saw an average of 15 to 20 applicants, some last year had as few as five applicants.

“Nobody wants your job, Joe,” joked board member Jeremy Martin, talking to Mattos.

Board member Lisa Cooley said the new Mount View School complex, especially now that it is completed, would be a strong selling point for applicants. MacArthur agreed.

“It’s a beautiful facility, from what I saw on my way in here tonight,” she said.

MacArthur said ideally the board should begin work on the superintendent search process now, and board members took her words to heart. Board members Phil Shibles and Dave Thompson, along with Cooley, Martin and Eickenberg, volunteered to form the group that does the initial work.

Mattos, who wryly commented that attending Monday’s meeting was “like sitting at your own funeral,” volunteered to do some of the logistical legwork. He stressed that he wouldn’t serve on the committee itself.

Those who volunteered to work on the search process agreed to meet Monday, Jan. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Office in Unity.

In other business Monday night, board members:

— Heard from Eickenberg that members of the finance committee had met with the auditors that day, and that the auditors had given the district “a complete bill of good health, with no issues to address.” She said the auditors did not find any issues with the district’s school nutrition program, either.

— Unanimously approved the following appointments: Steve Bantle, drama teacher/appointee at Mount View Middle School; Gloria Hewett, art club adviser at MVMS; Janet Caldwell and Kathleen Chase, Student Council co-advisers at Mount View High School; Wendy Pastio, ed tech III for the gifted and talented program; and Alicia McCormick, cheerleading coach at MVMS.

— Noted the nomination of Kimberly Hutchins as a math teacher at MVHS, and the resignation/retirement of Jean Dube as a math teacher at MVMS (effective June 30).