PORTLAND — The School Board was schedule to hold an executive session Tuesday night to be presented six candidates for superintendent of schools.

The job became available last July, when Emmanuel Caulk resigned to take over as superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools district in Lexington, Kentucky.  The board appointed Jeanne Crocker interim superintendent for one year beginning last August.

The hope is to have a new superintendent in place by July.

The School Department hired Illinois-based search firm BWP & Associates in January and allocated up to $25,000 for the firm.

School Board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione, who is also a member of the superintendent search committee, on Monday said BWP held focus group meetings and met with all the members of the School Board. The firm also held two community forums and conducted surveys to help identify the characteristics Portland residents want in the city’s next school chief.

The application deadline was March 1. Morrione said BWP was scheduled to present recommendations for six semifinalists Tuesday.

“It’s a pretty strong pool of applicants,” Debra Hill, managing director of BWP, said. “We started with 13 and whittled that down to six. It was a struggle.”

Morrione said if the board doesn’t like the candidates BWP presents, “we could potentially start over.” But she didn’t think that would happen.

“(BWP has) been very positive and they think they’ve gotten excellent candidates,” Morrione said.

Hill said BWP received “40-plus” applicants, but couldn’t reveal the exact number before Tuesday’s meeting. She said they typically hope to get between 30 and 45 applications.

She said the applicants all recognized the need for consistent leadership in Portland’s schools, which serve 7,000 students, and are committed to working in Portland. She said that, plus familiarity with the the issues of diversity and city finances, were the three key things BWP looked for in the screening and interview process.

Morrione said the board will decide if it would like to interview the semifinalists, how they would like to hold the interviews, and hopefully narrow the choices down to two or three finalists by the beginning of May.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Portland Public Schools central office on Cumberland Avenue.

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