SOUTH BEND—After a months-long search process that has included business leaders, parents, teachers and others, South Bend Community School Corp.’s board has settled on three finalists for the position of permanent superintendent.
Among the candidates is Carole Schmidt, the district’s current interim superintendent, Robert Haworth, an assistant superintendent of Valparaiso Community Schools, and Eric King, former superintendent of Muncie Community Schools.
King said he was a superintendent finalist here several years ago.
He has experience, he said, in university towns and sees the potential for partnership and dual-enrollment opportunities between colleges and universities and public schools.
While he was in Muncie, he said, the 8-Step Instructional Process was implemented with success.
"Our schools improved," he said, "student performance improved. There were significant gains across the board."
King said he’s interested in South Bend because of the potential here, both in terms of the schools and the city’s redevelopment efforts.
He said he resigned from Muncie schools in June for personal reasons and has been enjoying some time off since.
According to an Associated Press story from Dec. 15, 2010, King left that district amidst controversy.
In November 2010, the story says, Central High School administrators failed to report to police a female student’s allegations that a male student raped her in a bathroom at the school.
The Associated Press reported last year that King said the rape report was "vague" and administrators wanted to investigate on their own before filing a police report.
The girl’s mother has filed a civil lawsuit against Muncie Community Schools, King, former Muncie Central Principal Christopher Smith and the mother of the accused student, who since has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to four years in prison.
A Delaware County deputy prosecutor, Eric Hoffman, told WSBT-TV that King did not and will not face criminal charges in the rape-reporting incident.
Smith was charged in March with Failure to Immediately Report Child Abuse or Neglect, according to Fox59 News, who also reported that it was emergency room staff who notified police later when the girl left school and went to the hospital.
His trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 22.
On Thursday, King said he didn’t feel it was appropriate to speak about any aspect of the rape case.
He insisted that he left Muncie schools for personal reasons that had nothing to do with that.
On Thursday, Tony Costello, a retired Ball State University professor and current Muncie school board member who began right after King’s departure, told Newsradio 960 WSBT that King would likely not be eligible for rehire at Muncie.
"He’s one of the finest speakers I’ve ever heard," Costello said, "but the action that follows the talk is lacking."
Roger Parent, South Bend’s school board president, said he wasn’t aware that King was no longer superintendent in Muncie.
"We have the background check on these people," Parent said of the finalists, "and they’re all okay as far as I know.
"If something is there that shouldn’t be there," he said, "we’ll deal with it."
Haworth was born and raised in Indianapolis.
He worked as superintendent in two Indiana districts, including Warsaw, before moving to Kansas City to work for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
He’s now in his second year at Valparaiso schools.
Haworth said his first superitendency was at Spring Valley Community Schools, a 1,000-student district in French Lick.
There, he said, he learned every aspect of leading a school corporation.
Because the district is so small, he said, he did a variety of jobs, from handling payroll to being treasurer and the chief financial officer.
Haworth said he’s followed South Bend schools in the news and likes what he’s read about the school corporation’s turnaround efforts.
"I think there is going to be a great story that is going to be and already is being told about education in that community," he said.
"It excites me to see the community involvement, the business involvement," he said. "I want to be part of helping to complete that story."
Schmidt has been filling in as interim superintendent here since James Kapsa’s retirement this summer.
She didn’t return phone calls on Thursday, but according to Tribune archives, she spent much of her professional career in Tucson, Ariz. and has said she’s always felt urban education is her calling.
She has ties to the community. In the late ’90s, she became assistant superintendent in Penn-Harris-Madison schools.
And from 2007 to 2010, she was superintendent of Benton Harbor schools.
Though she left Benton Harbor abruptly after negotiating a separation agreement with a different school board than the one that hired her, Schmidt has said student test scores increased during her tenure there and other positive steps were being taken to turn around the low-performing district.
Each of the candidates will spend a full day in South Bend next week being interviewed in private by representatives from seven preselected groups, including students, parents and business and political leaders.
Aside from school board members, the groups will not rate the candidates, but rather identify in writing their strengths and weaknesses.
When board members deliberate, they have the option of taking that information into consideration.
Each candidate will also conduct a 20-minute press conference on the morning they’re in town.
The school board hired Omaha, Neb.-based recruitment firm MacPherson & Jacobson to conduct the nationwide search for the district’s next leader.
Parent said the board will likely deliberate in executive session on Nov. 18 and may potentially select a candidate that day.
Depending on the contract that person is currently in, Parent has said, he or she may not be able to officially begin until next school year.
Staff writer Kim Kilbride: