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Perquimans eyes new schools chief by July 1

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Matthew Cheeseman

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

HERTFORD — The same search firm that helped bring Matthew Cheeseman to Perquimans County three years ago as superintendent of schools will now be conducting the search for his successor.

The Perquimans Board of Education has agreed to hire the Wilmington-based Masonboro Group to lead the search for Perquimans’ next school superintendent. School officials are hoping to have a successor for Cheeseman, who will be leaving Jan. 1 to become superintendent of the Beaufort County Schools, hired by early April and working in the district by July 1.

According to Edwin West Jr., head of the Masonboro Group, that’s a tight turnaround.

“The person we want will have to give 60 days notice and we want somebody in place by July 1,” West said. “Quite frankly, the transition will be the fastest switch we’ve done.”

For example, the last time the Perquimans Board of Education hired Masonboro to conduct a superintendent search, it was after then-Superintendent Dwayne Stallings announced he was retiring at the end of 2015. In that case, the school board had more than seven months to find Cheeseman as a replacement. 

With the tight deadline in mind, the search process for Cheeseman’s successor has already started. The position is already advertised and applications are being received. The application deadline is March 14 and applicant screening is set for March 15-20. By March 25, interviews should be completed and the appointment should be announced by April 5.

Over the course of three days next month, Perquimans school staff and community members will get to weigh in on what attributes they want to see in the next school superintendent. Meetings with staff and the community are slated for Jan. 8-10.

“We feel it’s really important to get a good feel for what people want” in a superintendent, West said.

West said his firm specializes in superintendent searches for smaller school districts. For example, it just wrapped up its search for a new school superintendent in Hyde County. Hyde hired Stephen Basnight III, who had been principal at J.P. Knapp Early College High School in Currituck County.

West said his firm is small, and doesn’t seek out contracts for superintendent searches.

“We don’t want to do more than one (search) at a time because it’s so labor intensive,” he said. “You’re doing a lot of background checks. But we’ve been blessed over the years, and we just want to do our part and give back.”

Before he got into the business of superintendent searches, West himself was a superintendent of a small school district. Chowan County hired him for its job in 1972.

West said the Masonboro Group is charging Perquimans $12,500 for its search.

“We’re not making money on it. It’s more of a good will gesture,” he said.

By comparison, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools expects to spend $25,000 on the search the N.C. School Boards Association is conducting to find a replacement for Larry Cartner, who resigned in August shortly before the start of the school year.

Anne White, chairwoman of the Perquimans Board of Education, said her board wants to act quickly on hiring a new superintendent. School board members are comfortable working with the Masonboro Group, she said, because of the prior search that brought Chesseman to Perquimans. 

“They did a really good job last time,” White said. “This time I think we have some excellent local talent that may be applying, and also some in-house clients who are qualified. We’re anxious to move forward ....”

In the interim, she expects things go run smoothly.

“We have an excellent team of teachers and central office administrators,” she said.

White said Perquimans school officials understand the reasons Chesseman is departing the district.

“He (Cheeseman) is a young man and he did not come here to stay,” she said. “If he did, we would have wondered why. He works real hard, and while we would have preferred he not moved on in the middle of the year, we wanted him to be able to move on.”

West said a typical superintendent stays in one job for about three a half years.

“Based on what he (Cheeseman) said, he was very happy in Perquimans County but he wanted to go a larger district with newer challenges,” West said.

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