The Auburn City Schools Board of Education is conducting interviews this week of three finalists vying for the position of superintendent.

Applications came in from four different states after Superintendent Karen DeLano announced her retirement in April, and the Superintendent Search Committee, on which board members Terry Jenkins and Kathy Powell serve, has narrowed the pool to three candidates.

Jenkins and Powell combed through applications separately, with the help of the school system's attorney, and came up with the same list of finalists. They are Cristen Herring, ACS assistant superintendent; Tim Smith, executive area director for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida; and James Martin, school improvement specialist for the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Education Service Association.

The three candidates are being interviewed by the board this week, and the interviews are open to the public. Herring was interviewed Wednesday; Smith is being interviewed today at 10 a.m. and Martin will be interviewed on Friday at 10 a.m. Interviews are taking place at the Auburn Junior High School Performing Arts Center. School tours will be conducted following each formal interview, allowing the candidates to get a feel for Auburn and for the board to have plenty of time to interact with the finalists, said Jenkins.

"Late Friday afternoon, at that point in time our board members will have interacted and interviewed," he said. "At that point, we'll end up having to have probably a called board meeting where we will have some type of discussion about those candidates."

The goal would be for the board to find consensus and unanimously approve the hire of one of the candidates, but Jenkins, who helps conduct superintendent searches all across the state, said that sometimes votes are split.

"In the end, if we're not happy with any candidate, we'll continue to look," he said. "It's not always the person with the strongest resume; it's not always the person who has the most history. It's who is the best fit at this point in time to move the school system forward and to benefit our teachers and our students."

Both Powell and Jenkins stressed the significance of this upcoming decision.

"As a member of the board, one of the most important things you do is hire a superintendent," Powell said. "We are excited about, at least on paper, the caliber of the folks we're going to have an opportunity to interview."

Jenkins said that with all the growth and facilities projects in the school system's future, the decision is very important.

"I think it's probably the most important decision we'll make in the next three to four years, to say the least," he said. "Dr. DeLano came in and has taken the ball and moved us forward. We need this next person to pick the ball up where it is now. When you stop and think — the growth issues that we have, revenue issues we're going to have to deal with, facilities, programs, you can just name it. This person is going to have to be the leader that can bring everybody together and keep moving in a positive direction."

Candidate interviews are being recorded and will be made available to the public by the end of the week. The videos will likely be posted on auburnschools.org, and residents can follow Auburn City Schools on social media to be notified when the videos become available.

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