BOSTON (SHNS) – The search for the state’s next higher education commissioner could begin over the next few weeks and wrap up with the selection of a candidate in May, under a timeline laid out Monday.

Commissioner Carlos Santiago, who earns an annual salary of $243,734, announced this month that he would step down from his post at the end of June, and the Board of Higher Education plans to conduct a national search for his successor. Board chair Chris Gabrieli said the goal is to have a new commissioner ready to start in July.

Gabrieli told the board’s executive committee that Santiago “is amenable to providing us service for as long as we seek it, through at least the end of the year.” “So July 1st is not a witching hour, but many candidates of the type we would want are on the academic year [or] sort of nonprofit fiscal year, so we think July 1st is the most likely start date,” he said. “That’s part of the reason we want to get this council convened in February.”

The full board meets on Feb. 1 and will consider a motion authorizing the creation of an advisory council to conduct the search with an external consultant. The council would be tasked with bringing three to five finalist names to the board. Once finalists are identified, Gabrieli said, the board will interview them publicly and make a recommendation to Education Secretary James Peyser. Those interviews and the selection of a candidate would both take place in May under the timeline Gabrieli presented.

Once the board green-lights the advisory council, the executive committee expects to hold a special meeting next month to figure out its membership. The timeline also calls for the executive search firm vendor to be selected in February.