FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education appointed Stephen Tracy as the interim superintendent of schools with a July 1 start date but a search is still ongoing to find a more permanent candidate.

Back in late March, the board hired Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, an Illinois-based education consultant firm and the same one that culminated with current superintendent Toni Jones’ appointment, to carry out the search for the new leader.

In an update on the search process, consultants Brad Draeger and Judith Ferguson said there were over 30 potential candidates.

“I have close to 30 applicants in people who are seeking a job and I’m probably pursuing another 30 through recruiting very heavily right now,” Draeger noted, adding he had taken into account referrals from the community and Board of Education members.

Both consultants presented the results of their online survey and April 10-11 open forums with community stakeholders.

According to the consultants, parents were the majority of the online survey respondents accounting for 66 percent of the survey answers. Teachers followed suit with 18 percent and community members at 7 percent.

“When you look at the results and you compare community members and add parents to (that group), that’s where most of your respondents are, that will skew the results,” Ferguson said. “Students don’t typically answer the survey.”

Out of the total 1,097 survey respondents, only eight students -- or 0.7 percent of survey respondents -- identified themselves as students.

Among the highest-ranked characteristics Fairfield community members are looking for in the next schools leader include someone who fosters a positive professional climate of mutual trust, demonstrates a deep understanding of educational research and establishes a culture of high expectations for all students and personnel.

Some of the more notable challenges for schools this time around included a more robust long-term planning schedule for facility upgrades and the Early Childhood Center as well as racial disparity.

Amanda Hanson, a Fairfield Beach Road resident, said the district should enhance efforts to address racial disparity and inequality in the district during public comment.

“There’s not enough programs of diversity in place,” Hanson said. “How do we become a school system where others say ‘they know how to do it right?’ We want to hold the schools accountable.”

As to the focus group interviews, the consultants documented a total of 154 participants with students, administrators and parents forming 75 percent of those involved.

“In this particular aspect of the research, you get a nice opportunity to hear from students and what they’re looking for in their next superintendent,” Ferguson said.

In earlier reporting, the Board of Education said they expected to conclude finalist interviews by the end of June.

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com