A Meridian-based consulting firm was hired by the city School Board to assist with the search for a new superintendent.

In addition, the School Board hosted three meetings last week for parents, faculty and stakeholders to voice their opinions about what qualities the new superintendent should possess.

Performance Based Education Company, Inc. was hired by the School Board to assist with the search for a new superintendent.

Two members of the firm attended last week's meetings.

Don Evans and Bill Wade with Performance gave an overview of the selection process at the March 18 meeting for parents and then heard from those in the audience.

Sixteen parents, four of whom are teachers, were in attendance.

"Philadelphia has some limitations," Wade said, "but we plan to bring quality people to the board. I think we'll get a good pool."

Salary is a top factor, they said, in attracting a good superintendent.

There are currently nine superintendent searches going on in the state of Mississippi right now, Evans said.

"The pool is getting thinner so we don't know who will be attracted," Wade said.

He added that the School Board wanted to make sure that they didn't end up in the same situation as with the previous superintendent who resigned in October while still under contract.

The process, the men said, begins with parents, teachers and stakeholders writing down their ideas on what makes a good superintendent and the names of possible candidates.

That information will be presented to the School Board and they will narrow it down even further, they said.

Wade warned that just because someone was suggested as a potential candidate did not mean they would be selected.

"This job search is wide open and we want it handled right," he said.

After the School Board has presented its list of suggestions, the consultants will take it and compare it with the candidates.

Potential candidates would also be interviewed by Performance before their names even reach the board.

After that, approved candidates will be ranked and the completed list will be presented to the School Board. Then a candidate will be selected.

After presenting the overview, Wade and Evans opened the floor for questions and the first on everyone's mind was whether or not a background check would be performed on the candidates.

The men assured parents that each potential candidate would receive a thorough background check.

"We'll check their references and call the people," Wade said. "If we can't reach them we'll go to the community and ask around. We don't take chances."

Evans noted that the board would perform a credit check, saying the candidate had to be bonded if hired.

He then mentioned that the board would perform a criminal record check.

"Criminal and mental?" Taneka Jordan, a parent, asked.

Wade assured her, and the other parents, that a lot of school boards check criminal backgrounds themselves.

"If they're not," one parent said, "we're willing to pay for that cost ourselves."

Evans assured parents that when interviewing candidates they would ask if there was anything in their past that might be questionable.

What people want in a superintendent is different in each area, he said.

"The expectation for achievement should be the same," Evans said.

After all questions were answered, the men divided the parents into four groups of four and asked them to write down all of their suggestions.

The parents worked for nearly half an hour before turning in their ideas.

Vesha Shannon said she wanted a superintendent willing to help out and who knew the students.

Phoebe Ray agreed, saying she wanted someone who was a good leader with integrity and was willing to put the children first.

Laura Bailey said she wanted someone who was fair, strong, proactive and willing to listen to teachers and parents.

Wade and Evans presented the full list of suggestions to the School Board on Thursday.

Former Superintendent Terry Larabee resigned effective Oct. 28 after reaching a $100,000 settlement in a month-long negotiation with the city School Board after being placed on administrative leave on Sept. 4.

He gave up the remainder of his contract which was in effect until June 30, 2015, as well as any future causes of action, the School Board said in a prepared statement. He was paid $95,000 annually as superintendent.

Former Superintendent Robert Turnage was named interim until a permanent replacement is found.

Turnage, who lives in Philadelphia, served as superintendent for the city school district from 1995 through 2002.