BELTON — The process to find the next Belton Independent School District superintendent is unclear right now.

The Belton school board met Thursday night in closed session to begin discussing how it will replace Susan Kincannon — who, after eight years as the top school official here and nearly two decades in the district, was named Wednesday as the lone finalist for Waco ISD superintendent.

“Please know that the board will be hard at work identifying the best path forward,” board President Sue Jordan wrote in a letter to staff, parents and community members. “It is our intention to move forward with purpose to identify exceptional candidates for our top leadership position and to keep the community informed with accurate information throughout the process.”

The board is expected to outline the next steps to find Kincannon’s successor at its regular meeting Aug. 19.

Belton ISD spokeswoman Elizabeth Cox said the board at that time could detail its interim superintendent options, the timeline to replace Kincannon, and whether it will tap a third-party group to lead the process.

The Waco ISD board must wait 21 days before finalizing Kincannon’s hiring. Waco school board members will consider her contract on Aug. 29.

Kincannon, in a letter to Belton ISD employees and parents, said the district has been home to her family since they built a home here in 1997.

“Helping to educate our students for the last two decades has brought me immeasurable joy, a great deal of personal satisfaction and, best of all, it has given me the opportunity to make a difference for children,” Kincannon wrote. “Now, however, it’s time for me to write a new chapter in my life and continue doing the work that I love in a new place.”

The Belton school board extended Kincannon’s contract in February, and gave her a 4 percent raise last month. Kincannon currently earns a salary of $223,600.

Kincannon’s rise at BISD

The board tapped Kincannon as superintendent in May 2010. She succeeded Vivian Baker, who served as Belton ISD’s chief administrator for nine years until her retirement at the end of 2010.

Kincannon started her education career as a fifth grade teacher in Temple ISD. She moved to Belton ISD in 2000 to become the Intermediate School principal, and worked her way up to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in 2002. Kincannon was promoted to deputy superintendent in 2007.

Kincannon, a Copperas Cove High School graduate, received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, an educational administration master’s degree from Tarleton State University and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Baylor University.

Randy Pittenger — the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce president who served on the school board when it hired Kincannon — said the district did not conduct a search or hire an outside firm to find a new superintendent in 2010.

The board, Pittenger said, knew well in advance that Baker would retire, and had already set its sights on hiring Kincannon.

“We had the right person in the right place at the right time,” Pittenger said of Kincannon.

Pittenger — who served on the board for 24 years, including a 16-year stint as president — pointed out that the Belton school board conducted superintendent searches in the past.

Belton ISD conducted an internal search in late 2001 to find a new superintendent after Harold Ramm left the district to become the executive director for the Texas Association of Community Schools in Austin.

The board opted for an internal search after reviewing a superintendent profile that was based on community input. The profile was developed by the Texas Association of School Boards — which processed applications during the early-2000s superintendent search.

Baker was one of two finalists for superintendent in 2002. Prior to the board selecting her, Baker was the principal of Pirtle Elementary School.

BISD accomplishments

Kincannon has led Belton ISD through a growth period. Enrollment has grown by 3,000 students to 12,000 during the nine years she has been superintendent.

Belton ISD added two middle schools and three elementary schools since 2011. Charter Oak Elementary — the newest school in the district — opens Aug. 19.

The district is constructing its second comprehensive high school, Lake Belton High, in West Temple. It is scheduled to open next fall.

Kincannon’s other accomplishments in Belton ISD include standing up Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow; implementing a one-to-one digital learning initiative for students in sixth through 12th grades; passing two bonds in 2012 and 2017 worth $209 million; and receiving the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate designation at eligible campuses.

“I am honored to be the lone finalist to become Waco ISD’s next superintendent,” Kincannon said. “Waco is a special place for my family. My daughter attends Baylor University, and my husband does business there.”

Waco ISD applications

Waco ISD received 84 applications for superintendent — a position that was last held by Marcus Nelson, who resigned in March after he was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported. Nelson’s base salary was $272,000, according to the Tribune-Herald.

The school board narrowed down their final candidate to Kincannon after reviewing applications, interviews and visiting Belton ISD, the Tribune-Herald reported. The story said board member Norman Manning cast the sole dissenting vote in a 5-1 decision, and board member Stephanie Korteweg was absent from the meeting. Manning declined to comment on his decision to dissent.

“Over the past four months, our families, our employees and this community have shared their vision for the future of our schools with the school board, and I am confident that we have found someone who has the same hopes and dreams for our students,” Waco ISD school board President Angela Tekell said.

Unlike Belton ISD, Waco ISD’s enrollment is relatively static, according to the Tribune-Herald. Waco ISD had an enrollment of 14,756 students in the 2018-19 school year, according to a demographics report.

There are 27 campuses in Waco ISD — which covers the city of Waco, the small community of Beverly Hills and parts of unincorporated McLennan County — including two high schools, six middle schools, 15 elementary schools and four other campuses.