The state board of education has kicked its search for a state superintendent into high gear by opening up the window for people to apply for the $216,000-a-year job.

The person ultimately hired by the board will have some tough challenges: Turning around a state education system that is struggling and showing little signs of improvement, and doing this while dealing with state lawmakers who have their own ideas about how to fix schools.

The application period opens the same week that a Michigan State University study said Michigan ranks dead last for growth in school funding.

The position has been open since the May death of Brian Whiston, who had been state superintendent for nearly three years and had been leading an effort to transform Michigan into a top 10 performing state. It was a lofty goal, given Michigan has been sliding toward the bottom as other states have shown stronger improvement.

Sheila Alles, who had been a top administrator in the Michigan Department of Education, has been serving as interim superintendent since Whiston’s death.

Applications will be accepted until March 11, according to a news release Friday from the board, whose primary responsibility is to hire a state superintendent. Once that window has closed, the board’s search firm — Ray & Associates — will review the applications and identify finalists.

The release said “closed sessions may be used to discuss applicants” who request to remain confidential. The last time the board searched for a superintendent, all but one applicant requested confidentiality.

So what kind of leader is the board looking for? Take a look at this comprehensive list of skills and attributes the board approved in September.

Below, see the flyer the board created for the job.