The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is putting off for another week picking a search firm — or doing something entirely different — to find its next superintendent.
Instead, on Wednesday, the board will hear, but make no decisions on, presentations from three national search firms as part of its “committee of the whole.” The board plans to wait until its Aug. 18 regular meeting to decide how to proceed on the search to replace Superintendent John Dilworth.
“I want to give the board members time to digest what they’ve heard, ask questions and not have to make a full decision on Wednesday night,” Board President Barbara Freiberg said.
Board member Craig Freeman wants the board to speed things up.
He made a motion at a July 21 meeting — no board members seconded the motion — to start the search right away by appointing a citizens committee that would hire a search consultant.
“This is slow as molasses,” Freeman said. “What are we waiting for? I don’t understand. I truly don’t.”
Dilworth announced in May that he will leave the job in June when his three-year contract expires.
Here are the search firms that have applied and their requested fees:
• McPherson & Jacobson, of Omaha, Neb., $33,500, plus up to $14,420 in expenses.
• PROACT, of Wilmette, Ill., a $32,500 flat fee.
• Ray & Associates, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, an estimated fee of $36,800. The firm also offers an hourly rate of $100 per hour for one of its consultants and $25 for an administrative assistant, plus expenses.
“The proposals are very similar in lots of ways,” Freiberg said.
PROACT has handled searches in the past for the school system, including the 2005 search that led to the hiring of Chief Academic Officer Bob Stockwell.
The current chief executive officer of PROACT is Gary Solomon, who worked with the school system in 2008 and 2009 under a school improvement contract as part of the company Synesi & Associates, where Solomon is president.
The PROACT proposal mentions five other recent searches in districts of similar “size and complexity.”
In its application, McPherson & Jacobson highlights 10 school superintendent searches the company has done in Louisiana in the past decade, most recently a 2010 search in Bogalusa.
Ray & Associates notes only one Louisiana search in its application, Monroe city schools, but notes 15 other searches in school districts of “comparable size and diversity” to East Baton Rouge Parish.
All three firms unsuccessfully applied to handle the 2009 search that led to the hiring of Dilworth.
The three applications can be found under the heading “Committee of the Whole — August 10, 2011” on the following web page: http://schoolboard.ebrschools.org/explore.cfm/boardmeetingpacket/.
One firm that did not apply this time was Hazard Young Attea & Associates of Rosemont, Ill. That firm handled the school system’s last two superintendent searches, but several board members have been critical of the firm, particularly the search that led to Dilworth’s hiring.
Indeed, several School Board members, including Freeman, doubt the wisdom of hiring a search firm.
“Maybe they will convince me otherwise,” Freeman said. “I truly feel like the search firm has a stable full of people they deal with on a regular basis. I truly want a broader search.”
Freeman has suggested a process similar to one done recently to select the Baton Rouge police chief.
Board Vice President Tarvald Smith has suggested a process in which School Board members would more actively be involved in vetting candidates.
Adam Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, has floated the idea of having a community search group narrow the field down to just one candidate that the board would accept or reject.
In all three scenarios, these search groups would likely hire an outside consultant to help recruit people.
“Any approach beats just sitting on my hands for another month,” Freeman said.