At the beginning of next month, there will be a big change at the top in the Liverpool Central School District.
Dr. Richard Johns will take over as superintendent Aug. 1, replacing Jan Matousek, who has been superintendent since 2003. Johns was one of 20 applicants for the position and one of four the board strongly considered. Only two candidates met all of the board's criteria, according to former Board of Education President J. Mark Lawson.
Lawson, who was on the board when Matousek was appointed, said the search process was entirely different this time around.
"When Mrs. Matousek was hired, the make-up of the board was very different, and we had trouble agreeing even on a process for hiring," he said. "This time, the board was unanimous from start to finish in how we proceeded, whom we interviewed and our final decision. Before, over the objection of some board members, we did not conduct a national or even regional search. This time, we advertised nationally and received a few applications from out of state."
So what set Johns apart?
"Dr. Johns brings a wealth of experience as a superintendent in many different kinds of school districts - small, medium, and large; rural, suburban, and urban," Lawson said. "He has a proven track record of turning around troubled schools."
Indeed, in 33 years as an administrator, Johns has served a wide variety of districts, including Newburgh Enlarged City School District in the Hudson Valley.
"I was basically brought in to save that district," Johns said. "They were in a tough situation. Six of their schools were on the federal 'in need of improvement' list Basically, the district was failing."
Johns spent three years at the helm in Newburgh. After that time, he said he and the board of education managed to pull the district back up.