The search is on for St. Louis Park's next top school leader.

The school board is looking internally for a superintendent to replace Debra Bowers, who is leaving this summer when her contract ends after leading the district for nine years. The board is taking applications until Feb. 5 from St. Louis Park school employees with a superintendent's license or who are in a licensure program; no more than five people are likely to meet those requirements, board chair Bruce Richardson said.

"We think we have an excellent staff," he said. "And we thought we'd give them a chance first."

The next leader of the 4,400-student district will have to continue its strategic plan, he said, and as a first-ring suburban district, help it compete with both urban and suburban schools. They district is likely to select a new leader by April or May to start July 1.

"We got it right nine years ago," said Richardson, who was on the board that selected Bowers. "We intend to get it right again."