Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — The Dallas School District didn’t need to look far to find its leader for the next two years.

On Monday evening at its regular meeting, the Dallas School Board agreed to extend Superintendent Andy Bellando’s contract to a third year, and remove the word “interim” from his title. Board chairman Jon Woods Jr. said that with the amount of uncertainty the district is facing now, continuity in leadership is critical. The district began a search last school year with consultant Hank Harris.

Woods said that Harris brought the board a lot of positive feedback about Bellando during his information gathering phase.

“He gave us feedback on the information that he rounded up throughout the district and from community members and there was a lot of positive feedback for our current interim superintendent,” Woods said. “And so, based where we are with the state of everything — I’m talking about the smoke and COVID — Andy got a lot of good feedback, leading us through this.”

Bellando said he would be willing to take on a third year. He is now starting his second school year with the district.

“There are a lot of things happening in Dallas School District right now that will require some continuity and sustainability,” Bellando said. “I’m willing to commit for a third year if that is what the board asks me to do.”

Woods said that some of the feedback from Harris indicated that people would prefer to find a candidate who already works for the district to serve as superintendent long term. He said that may not be possible now, but by extending Bellando’s contract to three years, that allows possible candidates to develop.

He said that many of the traits people said they wanted in a superintendent, the district already had in Bellando.

Board member Mike Blanchard said it would be difficult to bring in a new superintendent in the middle of what he expects to be a constantly changing situation as the district addresses COVID-19 concerns and requirements.

“Andy’s strong leadership that he’s exhibited in the past one year and two weeks that he’s been in the district, I think it’s been phenonomenal and the acceptance and support that we see throughout the district has been great,” Blanchard said. “I think maybe if there wasn’t a global pandemic, maybe we would be pushing forward with the superintendent search and I don’t think we would be having this conversation. But the amount of change we are going to have in just the next six months to a year trying to deal with everything that we’ve been facing in the last six months, we need a strong hand on the wheel.”

Board member Dave Hunt said the district isn’t abandoning the search for a permanent superintendent, just delaying it temporarily.

Woods said the district will likely have Harris continue the search at a later date.

“We will be right back at that search before you know it,” Woods said. “We will probably utilize Hank again, with all the work he’s already done for us, he can pick up right where he left off.”

The board will have Bellando’s contract updated and vote final approval at the next meeting.

“I’m personally grateful every day that Andy is leading our district,” said board member Mike Bollman. “Andy’s amazing leadership through one of the most difficult crises the a district, a state, a country and the world could go through — you’ve lead us through this very, very professionally and with a lot of grace.”

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