The search to replace Hesperia Unified School District Superintendent Hank Richardson will not begin until the school board first clarifies the superintendent's role.

The HUSD school board tabled a motion to hire a firm to search for a new superintendent at Monday night's meeting.

"I think that [hiring a new superintendent] would add stability and direction" to the district, school board president Bruce Minton said. He had asked the motion be put on the evening's agenda at the board's previous meeting.

Board member Hardy Black said the board had other work to do before it could look for a new superintendent.

"I would like to hold off on it, myself," he said, noting the board had been working on clarifying the superintendent's goals and objectives for three months without reaching a satisfactory conclusion. "I think it would be a rush to judgment [to hire someone before the process was completed]. I would rather establish the goals ... prior to hiring someone to fit that mold."

The board approved Richardson's retirement August 7. Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Mark McKinney is currently serving as interim superintendent.

"I think we have an absolute duty as a board to seek direction for the district," Minton said.

Hiring a new superintendent quickly was "absolutely disastrous the last time it was done," Black replied.

Richardson had been named superintendent at the same time as Superintendent Dick Bray had announced he was leaving the district in August 2006, on the eve of the 2006-2007 school year.

In addition to letting the board have some time to continue working on setting the superintendent's goals and objectives -- the board is set to take up the matter again at its next meeting -- Black said he wanted McKinney to have some more time in his interim role.

"I'd like to see him there for a while and see what happens," he said. "I think we should wait sufficient time to allow Mr. McKinney to decide if he wants to participate in the [search for a new superintendent]."

Black's political allies supported him on clarifying the superintendent's role prior to beginning a search for a new chief executive to lead the Victor Valley's single largest employer.

"I think it's important to get some of these things nailed down before we ask someone to come in and consider us," board vice-president Robert Kirk said. "Then we can pull the trigger on this and move rapidly."

"I think we're jumping the gun if we do this right now," board member Lee Rogers said.

"It'll be months before we're prepared to do that," Minton disagreed, comparing the HUSD to a ship without a rudder. "It's been months and we have not been able to do that. ... We will continue to flounder."

The other three board members took strong exception to Minton's characterization of the district.

"In the last two to three weeks, many of the things we were given a mandate to do as a board have been going ahead at a rapid pace," Black said, referring to himself, Kirk and Rogers, who were elected together in November 2006.

But Minton stuck to his analogy.

"Principals need to know they have consistency, not for a few months, but as a long-term plan," he said. "This district has no rudder to guide it."

The next meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will take place September 24, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. at Sultana High School.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.