The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted unanimously Thursday to seek proposals from nationwide search firms to lead the hunt to replace Superintendent John Dilworth.

Dilworth’s contract ends in June 2012.

Jerry Arbour, board president during the 2009 search leading to Dilworth’s hiring, suggested moving fast.

“We have one year from pretty much right now to select a superintendent,” Arbour said.

“It sounds like a lot of time but that time is going to fly on us.”

Arbour said that just seeking proposals won’t commit the board to conducting a nationwide search.

“If we don’t, we’ll waste about two months if later we decide to have a national search firm,” he said.

Board Vice President Tarvald Smith, who has suggested a more locally controlled search, went along with the move, but was noncommittal.

“This is not a vote on whether we hire a search firm,” he said.

Arbour, whom Board President Barbara Freiberg has tapped to lead the board’s search effort, urged General Counsel Domoine Rutledge to move quickly to issue a request for proposal.

Arbour said that request should include a caveat that the board might not hire a search firm at all.

The vote to seek proposals was 10-0; board member Kenyetta Nelson-Smith left Thursday’s meeting early and did not vote.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, based in Rosemont, Ill., has handled the last two superintendent searches.

Dilworth, in a May 20 email to board members, said he did not want to remain as superintendent longer than his contract because of dissension among members, with frequent divided votes, and the lack of a good fit between him and the board.

Arbour also suggested Thursday that as a way to save time, the board use information from the 2009 search about defining characteristics of a superintendent.

“The qualities that were circulated, they were valid then, they are valid today,” Arbour said.

Freiberg suggested that the board vote on those characteristics when it meets in July. She said she has a couple of suggestions to add to the 2009 list.

Board member Jill Dyason suggested that, as the board did in 2009, it could post a questionnaire on the system’s website seeking input, and the board agreed.

Communications Director Chris Trahan said he will soon post the questionnaire.

“We can use the same survey we used last time,” Trahan said. “All we have to do is activate it.”

Rutledge also suggested that board leaders begin talking to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to clear the way if the School Board ends up hiring a non-traditional candidate who does not meet state qualifications for a superintendent and consequently needs a waiver.

In other action, the School Board:

Promoted Dianne Talbot from assistant principal at Baton Rouge Magnet High to interim principal at Glasgow Middle to replace Judy O’Dell who is retiring at June’s end.

Honored three principals of the year — Brenda Wilkinson, Winbourne Elementary; Viola Jackson, Capitol Middle; and Linda Lewis, Istrouma High. They will now compete in regional principal competition.

Laid off 27 non-instructional employees, 21 of them clerks. These layoffs were set in motion by a “reduction in force” approved in March. The employees are now on a recall list if vacancies in their areas emerge.