HARVARD -- Selection of the next superintendent of schools will be a public process and follow standard protocols, starting with a job posting, even though an internal candidate has formally expressed interest in the job.

The School Committee on Monday night agreed to start from scratch by posting the job and asking the internal candidate, Linda Dwight, principal of the Hildreth Elementary School, to fill out an application and provide references.

At the same time, the School Committee chair plans to do research on experts and evaluation tools that could help in reviewing Dwight's qualifications and identifying potential areas where she might need mentoring.

"There's a steep learning curve going from principal to superintendent," said School Committee member Keith Cheveralls.

The selection process will include meetings where the faculty gets to meet the candidate and the public has a chance to do the same.

The School Committee agreed to set an early September deadline for completing the process. This allows time, if necessary, to contract with a search firm. This would be necessary only if officials decided against the internal candidate.

"This is a necessary step," said School Committee member Kirsten Wright. "I fully support the evaluation of an internal candidate."

School Committee members did not agree on when to begin the process. Chairman SusanMary Redinger argued for moving swiftly and member Patty Wenger agreed. But others, including interim superintendent Joseph Connelly, recommended waiting until the end of the summer.

"The staff will be more involved, more responsive, if we wait until August," Connelly said.

School Committee members said that following the June 10 meeting when Dwight's letter of interest was read, they had received overwhelming support for the principal's candidacy.

"Of about 50 contacts, the majority were for Dr. Dwight," said Redinger. "Some wanted to move to the search, but not the majority."

Redinger worried that delaying the process will dilute interest.

"That's a two-and-a-half month wait," she pointed out.

But the majority of the committee agreed to wait until September.

Members were all of one mind on making the process open. And they agreed that communicating this is critical.

"We need to be outward with our communication, be very accurate," Cheveralls said, emphasizing the need for the School Committee to include the entire community in the decision-making process. "This is a PR exercise for an important job."

The committee directed Redinger to draft a formal press release and distribute it to the local newspapers.