Three search firms bidding on the opportunity to help find a superintendent to replace got a glimpse of the Board of Education and community they will serve if selected at Monday’s Board meeting.
The firms found a group ready to get to work and a number of parents who want a delay until after the April election when four of the Board’s seven seats will be before the voters.
All of the firms agreed that the board should begin looking for a superintendent now, rather than hiring an interim until after the electorate has its say.
“We think that if you wait until the board is seated, you're going to miss the really high season of candidates,” School Exec Connect President Linda Hanson, a former Township High School District 113 superintendent, said. “We don't think that an interim is in your best interest. That becomes a year where you’re not really doing your strategic goals.”
Public comment after the presentations turned heated. The board intends to hire a superintendent for a three-year contract, but .
“You as a body do not have the credibility within the community to name a superintendent,” Barry Grossman said. “To talk to these headhunting firms and not let them know the situation in the community is disingenuous to them. Thinking outside the box is what you need to do right now. Maybe you'll turn the community around. There's going to be new board members, and the board will regain its credibility.”
Parents Disagree As Well
Another parent, Patricia Reese, spoke out in favor of hiring a superintendent for a full contract now.
“I think it's in our best interest to hire the best person possible for the three-year contract,” Reese said. “Any candidate coming in here will do his or her homework. As a concerned parent as well, I don't think we're going to get the best candidate for hiring for a year. People want commitment.”
Jodi Shapira has been gathering signatures for a petition to delay the replacement and said she would deliver it at the next meeting. Board members got into back and forth discussions with the parents where they argued for pursuing the search now.
“I really feel that this is a big opportunity and a huge necessity to get the absolute best candidate for our community ASAP,” Board member Ron Worth said. “To put things off for an entire year, if there are any issues in the District they're not going to be solved.”
Board Member Debbie Muller agreed, though she said she might listen to a petition if it had thousands of signatures.
“I was elected to do this job for four years,” she said. “It's my responsibility as an elected member of this Board to do the best I can to find the best person to fit the job. I'm not going to sit in this chair and not do my job for the next year.”
Board To Do Further Research on Firms
The board will check the references and do further research into the three firms before the August 20 meeting.
While the Board expressed concern about Illinois’ pension system and the upcoming April election, all three firms assured the members they would still be able to provide excellent candidates.
“If you look at the North Shore and your reputation as a school district, you're a very desirable school district,” Hank Gmitro, president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, said. “As I travel around the country and do searches in many states Illinois is a much more attractive educational environment than 70 or 80 percent of states.”
The firms each received 45 minutes to present their qualifications and field questions from the Board. Rosemont-based Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates has the most national reach and specializes in screening for leadership traits.
Libertyville-based B.W.P. & Associates said its greatest strength is customizing its interview and search process the school district’s needs. It primarily has contacts in Illinois and said about half of its candidates typically come from recruiting the firm’s connections, with the other being open applicants.
B.W.P. President Mark Friedman founded a superintendent mentorship program in Lake County, and their contract includes post-hiring mentoring.
One Firm Offers Ongoing Support
“Even if you bring in an experienced person, it's someone who will be new to the District, new to the area,” Friedman said. “We want both the superintendent and the Board to know there's someone behind them. We love doing that.”
Hanson’s firm handled the District’s superintendent search nine years ago. The firm specializes in school districts with high performing students and very involved communities, places where faculty searches are often the most contentious.
To deal with that, they said they would make the process as open as possible, holding community meetings and having District residents participate in the search.
Some residents were opposed to the hiring of School Exec Connect, saying they did not do a good job attracting an experienced candidate in the Caruso principal search and that they would prefer a firm with greater reach. “If I was a voting person, that would probably be my least choice,” Shapira said.