Altoona Area school board members have narrowed their list of candidates for superintendent down to three.
The district's Pennsylvania School Boards Association consultant, Wayne LeClair, said board members interviewed eight candidates last week and is planning a second round of interviews for their three favorites.
Superintendent Dennis Murray, 72, is scheduled to retire this summer, after 29 years in the position.
The next round of interviews could be the last, LeClair said, adding, "We'll have to see how these next ones go."
Meanwhile, district Solicitor David Andrews said he has interviewed several people for his noncriminal investigation of raises for district administrative staff members.
The board directed Andrews last week to start an investigation after board President Ryan Beers documented salary raises for seven administrative employees between 2007 and 2010 for which meeting minutes show no record of board approval.
"I wanted this to come out prior to hiring the next superintendent so that they are coming in with their eyes wide open and prepared to deal with that," Beers said.
The combined raises total at least tens of thousands of dollars.
Beers said he has been organizing the salary information for the past 11 months, and the timing of his inquiry was not an attempt to push Murray out of the door earlier than his June 30 retirement date.
"It came to a point where I was done with the research and I was able to show it," he said.
Murray underwent shoulder surgery Thursday and said he would respond to Beers' supposition that the raises stemmed from his office when he recovers.
Beers said the search for Murray's successor could "hopefully" be complete by the end of February.
"We think they would all be qualified," he said. It's a matter of "who will be the best fit."
It has been five months since the board contracted the PSBA to aid in the search.
LeClair did not release candidates' identities because they are notifying their current school districts of their possible departure.
After the second round of interviews, he will "discuss with the board for the next step," LeClair said.
Andrews offered no time line for the completion of his investigation.
"I've had several interviews, and there are many more to do," he said.
Andrews said the board will make all findings public, "upon the conclusion of the investigation."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.