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Community members, business representatives, and school system staff and students welcomed this week three candidates for superintendent of schools.

Charles County Superintendent James E. Richmond opted not to renew his contract this year, after serving for 17 years.

The Charles County Board of Education began the process of finding a new superintendent over the summer, and opted to bring in the Maryland Association of Boards of Education as a consultant.

Katie O’Malley-Simpson, spokeswoman for the school system, said it has been about 20 years since the last time a Charles County school board has gone through a superintendent search. Richmond started as interim superintendent prior to being appointed.

The finalists for superintendent are Kimberly Hill, current principal of North Point High School in Waldorf; Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado Springs School District 11 in Colorado; and Carey M. Wright of the District of Columbia public schools.

The process kicked off with a series of public forums for community members to voice opinions on criteria for the system’s next superintendent.

The forums, which took place in October, asked three questions: What are some good things about Charles County and the Charles County public schools? What characteristics should school board members look for in a superintendent? And what challenges will the new superintendent face?

O’Malley-Simpson said information from the forums was used in putting together advertisements for the position, which were sent out nationwide.

There were 24 applicants for the position, and the board, through an interview process, narrowed the field, brought several people back for a second interview and then selected the three finalists.

Starting with Swift, each candidate spent a day this week at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building in La Plata meeting with focus groups representing principals, students, school system support staff, the business community, teachers, parents and community leaders.

Candidates also were given individual tours of the county by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Keith Hettel and had lunch with students.

Candidates had an opportunity to meet with elected officials during their visits.

The school board met with each candidate for a third time this week.

After the last day of focus groups and meet-and-greets, O’Malley-Simpson said, the school board will receive and review all input from the groups.

O’Malley-Simpson said the plan is for the school board to announce the system’s new superintendent April 9 at its regularly scheduled meeting.