Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad is a finalist for a job in suburban Detroit, and school board members said they're preparing to replace him quickly, if needed.
Nerad is one of five people interviewing for the superintendent position later this week in affluent Birmingham, Mich., according to a spokeswoman for the Birmingham School District. The new hire would start work on July 1.
Madison board members said Nerad surprised them two months ago, when he made a failed bid for the top job in Omaha, Neb., and the decision forced them to begin preparing to make an immediate hire.
"That one (the Omaha application) was a little bit of a surprise, and I think that has colored our approach here," school board president James Howard said. "We don't want to get caught without our ducks in a row, so to speak."
Nerad announced in late March he was resigning from the Madison school district sometime between then and the end of his contract in summer 2013. He made no mention of applying for other jobs, but later confirmed reports that he was interviewing in Omaha.
The school board will take a two-step approach if Nerad gets the job in Michigan, first hiring an interim superintendent from a list of six or seven names and then relying on a search firm to find a permanent replacement, board member Arlene Silveira said.
"It's very hard to go out and solicit an interim candidate when you can't tell them anything," Silveira said. "When would you start, what would be expected? So we have to wait until (Nerad leaves)."
The field of potential interim superintendent candidates isn't public.
Art Rainwater, the head of Madison schools before Nerad took over in 2008, said in a phone interview that he will not consider the post. Rainwater, who worked 43 years in lower education, said he is "perfectly happy" as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Howard said Nerad's contract requires him to give six months' notice before leaving the superintendent post, although the board could negotiate with him, Howard said.
But administrators in Birmingham said they would make a decision by June 11, with the new superintendent starting July 1 -- well before the six month requirement.
"It means we'll have to decide whether he can take that job July 1, that will be solely up to us," Howard said. "We like to keep a few cards in our hand. We feel we owe it to the community."
Nerad is also due at least $37,500 in a retirement benefits package, as long as he gives the district five months' notice. The board could revisit that amount should Nerad leave sooner, district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said.
Howard, who said Nerad had told him about the Michigan job, added the superintendent has been a good leader since announcing his resignation.
"He has been doing a good job in the district, he's stayed committed to his work in the district, so we really don't have an issue," Howard said.
The Birmingham district has 8,340 students -- about one-third the size of Madison.