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Board members criticize hiring process, approve two administrators

Ben Felder June 3rd, 2014

Two administrators were hired by the Oklahoma City Public School Board Monday night, but not before several board members raised objections to the process of recommending candidates for approval.

A month before the district welcomes new superintendent Robert Neu, the board was presented with two candidates that had been recommended by Neu.

The board ultimately voted 7 to 1 in favor of the hires, but at least two members said they were concerned with filling high-level positions without hearing more about the candidates before Monday’s meeting.

“These are key positions … it does bring me concern if these are who has been chosen because I don’t like the [current] process of the district getting information to me as a board member [late],” said District 5 board member Ruth Veales, who ultimately cast the lone dissenting vote.

Aurora Lora was hired as the new assistant superintendent of student achievement and accountability. Lora also was a finalist for the superintendent position, a district official told the board during the public meeting.

Cynthia Koss was hired as the new executive director of secondary curriculum.

Neu, who officially begins his tenure as superintendent in July, was present for each interview and recommended the hires, a district official said. While Neu is not yet acting as superintendent, he was operating under a consulting contract with the district during the interview process for the two administrator positions.

“Significant improvement must include a committed support staff and strong educators, and the district has hired the best of the best,” Neu said in a statement released following the board’s vote.

District 6 board member Jay Means expressed some of the harshest criticism of the hiring process and said he felt the district was moving too fast.

“Where is the immediacy?” Means asked during Monday’s board meeting. “At best, this is poor communication; at worse, this is leaving board members out of the process.”

Means also questioned the speed of naming Neu the new superintendent, who was hired unanimously by the board in April.

“This was poor communication and poor leadership by this board,” Means said. “I expect that when our superintendent gets here that the line of communication between board members is better.”

While Veales and Means expressed concern with the process, other board members expressed that not everyone shared the same concern. Brandon Carey, the school district’s attorney, said the board might want to change the standard for the information it receives on certain candidates.

“You expect to see a resume, and maybe we haven’t been clear about what resumes will be seen,” Carey told the board.

New hires
Lora joins OKC Public Schools as the new associate superintendent of student achievement and accountability, which will include oversight of districtwide curriculum, staff training and evaluation, along with studying student achievement.

Lora is a Harvard graduate and was most recently the assistant superintendent for the Dallas Independent School district.

Koss comes to the district from Deer Creek Public Schools, where she was chief academic officer for the suburban district.
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