KELLER -- School trustees picked a veteran Texas educator Thursday night to fill in as superintendent while the district searches for a permanent replacement for James Veitenheimer.
Mark Jackson, who retired as Burleson school superintendent in 2010, was named interim superintendent.
Officials said they expect Jackson to have the helm for about two months, if the search for the next superintendent goes as planned. He will be paid a daily rate of $796.47 on a four-day workweek. He starts work Monday.
Jackson said he looks "forward to help keep them moving forward and preparing the way for the next superintendent."
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He spent his early career in Grand Prairie schools, then was superintendent in Kerrville and Burleson.
Veitenheimer leaves for the top job in a suburban Phoenix district this month.
This week, the consultants leading the search for a superintendent conducted focus groups to get input on what people want in a superintendent. Each trustee submitted six to eight names, including a teacher, a parent, a student and a community leader, and were encouraged to invite district critics.
The consultants, David Thompson and Mike Moses, said they asked participants to talk about the area and the district's strengths and challenges. They also discussed the professional and personal qualities they would want to see in the next superintendent.
Thompson and Moses reported to trustees Tuesday night about their findings from the groups.
They said under "strengths," many participants cited good teachers and strong parental involvement. They agreed on several challenges: tight budget constraints that have cost programs and put more stress on teachers and principals, an east-west division mentality and a perceived schism between central administrators and campus teachers.
Most focus group participants said classroom teaching experience was one of the most important qualities the next superintendent should have. Under personal qualities, members said the next superintendent should be outgoing and approachable.
"They want someone who can unite the community, somebody who has a great personality and is able to communicate with someone who may be critical of the district," Moses said.
After hearing the results Tuesday night, several trustees said they were not surprised by the ongoing themes and agreed with many of the ideas.
Trustee Lara Lee Hogg said, "One of our strengths is that we've spent the last four to five years building great processes that now we can look for that unifying person who is a great communicator."
Board President Kevin Stevenson said that although the district runs fairly smoothly and has made many gains in recent years, "there's still an east-west divide, and there are still teachers that feel they're not being heard."
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231