AYER/SHIRLEY -- The Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee has begun the search process for a new school district superintendent. The committee's goal is to have the new superintendent in place on or before July 1, 2014.

The School Committee began working with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) to launch the search after it received a Nov. 4 letter from the new regional school district's first superintendent, Carl Mock, indicating his plans not to renew his contract.

MASC Field Director of Information and Technology Michael Gilbert presented a superintendent search timeline Dec. 3.

Gilbert said between now and mid-January, the MASC would conduct focus group meetings in the community, talk to staff and set up at least two evening meetings -- one in each community -- to give parents and community members an opportunity to weigh in on their expectations of a new superintendent in the next three to five years.

Gilbert recommended the committee simultaneously make available the link to an anonymous online survey that would give a wider range of individuals the opportunity to have a voice in the selection process.

Gilbert asked the committee to quickly make a decision about whether or not it would pay for an advertisement for the position in "Education Week," a national online publication. The cost of the ad would be about $2,500, he said.

School Committee member Dan Gleason expressed concern that if the committee did not take out the ad, the committee "may be missing out on some good candidates."

"Most candidates have some kind of ties to Massachusetts, but if they are from a large distance, those people would see it in Education Week," Gilbert responded. "But it's probably not a large pool."

Gilbert suggested that the district set aside a total of $18,000 to $20,000 for the search.

Screening Committee

Gilbert recommended a screening committee of from nine to 11 people, with the PTO selecting the parents, and the teachers' union appointing the staff.

He suggested asking people from the community to submit letters of interest that would be "pulled out of a hat."

"My job is to keep them focused on the selection criteria you set forward," he said. "Using that criteria, we do the paper screening, so you get eight to 10 people who, at least on paper, fulfill the search criteria."

The committee discussed having four staff, four parents, two community members, two administrators, one high school student, and two support staff on the screening committee, but did not yet commit to a definitive number.

The screening committee is expected to first meet with School Committee Chairman Pat Kelly in early February, and begin its work on Feb. 25.

Gilbert said he looked at communities similar to Ayer and Shirley based upon district size and ability to pay. In 2013, those districts, which have up to 2,100 students, paid their superintendents between $123,000 and $173,000. The average salary was $143,600, and the median, $145,000.

The salary range for schools Gilbert termed "major competitors" was $132,000 to $170,000, with an average salary of $152,000.

His recommendation was that the committee set the salary range at between $155,00 and $165,000. Ayer-Shirley's current superintendent is paid an annual salary of $148,000.