Open searches were commonplace a decade ago, but today they are more closed, according to Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.
Superintendent jobs have gotten more difficult as the economy worsened and administrators have been required to make unpopular decisions to cut staff and programs, he said. About half of the 13,680 superintendents in the nation have indicated that they will leave their positions in the next three years.
With fewer experienced superintendents looking for jobs, search firms have gotten more aggressive about going out and recruiting candidates, he said, and many of those candidates don't want their names made public.
"If you are going to go after an experienced superintendent who is doing a good job, then that superintendent is not going to go through an open search," he said.
Search firms and boards have gone to great lengths to try to control the information about searches, which is made harder by social media.
"The consultants have gotten very good at these stealth searches," Domenech said.
Blanton in Florida said he does not believe that requiring searches to be open has hindered his ability to attract candidates. He said most urban districts receive 25 candidates and rural districts far more.
"That shows me that people are not afraid to apply. I have been doing searches for 30 years. I have seen a drop in the number of applications; I have not seen a drop-off in the quality," he said.
At least two local school employees were not afraid to go public when applying for superintendent jobs out of state. Renee Foose, Baltimore County's deputy superintendent, was a finalist in Orange County, Fla., but did not get the job. Tisha Edwards, the chief of staff in the city, dropped out of the running in Louisiana after taking part in the interview process, which was taped and put on the school system's website. Foose and Edwards did not comment on their applications or the process.
Searches are taking place in the following jurisdictions:
•Baltimore County. The contract of Joe A. Hairston, who has been superintendent for 12 years, expires after this school year.
•Howard County. Sydney Cousin announced last year that he would retire in July. He has been superintendent since 2004.
•The state. Nancy S. Grasmick retired last June after 20 years in the job.