Representatives of a national search firm on Thursday told the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board it will review the qualifications of 100-plus people interested in being superintendent and narrow that number down to seven to 12 candidates by Dec. 7.
“We are very confident in our ability to deliver high-quality candidates for you to consider for your next superintendent,” said Gary Solomon, chief executive officer of PROACT
Solomon was accompanied by Jim Huge, chief strategy officer for the Wilmette, Ill.-based firm, but Solomon did most of the talking Thursday.
Last month, the School Board voted to hire PROACT to handle the search to replace Superintendent John Dilworth. In May, Dilworth announced he planned to leave when his three-year contract expires in June.
The board signed a contract with PROACT earlier this month for $30,000, which includes travel and other expenses.
The board also gave the firm the characteristics it is seeking in a superintendent. Board President Barbara Freiberg released a final draft to the board of those characteristics, which now number 17.
Solomon laid out the following schedule for the search:
• Place ads in a variety of publication starting Oct. 1.
• By Nov. 15, shift from recruiting to deciding on finalists.
• Set Dec. 5 as the final application deadline.
• Hand over seven to 12 names on Dec. 7.
“Six weeks (of recruiting) is fine for us,” Solomon said. “We will be targeted. We will be efficient.”
After the meeting, Solomon said he envisions holding two rounds of interviews: first with seven to 12 “semi-finalists,” and then a second round with two or three finalists in early January.
Solomon said he thinks it’s important that the board see a good number of candidates with a range of backgrounds to help it determine the kind of person they want.
This search is shaping up to be much different than the last two East Baton Rouge Parish superintendent searches. Those searches, conducted in 2004 and 2009 by the firm Hazard Young Attea & Associates, or HYA, both ended with the board receiving three finalists with only days to vet them.
PROACT beat out two other search firms to win the current search contract: McPherson & Jacobson, and Ray & Associates. HYA didn’t apply for this search.
PROACT has worked with the school system before. It handled the 2005 search that led to the hiring of Chief Academic Officer Bob Stockwell. It also handled the 2010 search that ended with the rehiring of current Chief Academic Officer Herman Brister Sr.
Solomon recently took over the management of the firm. He worked with the school system in 2008 and 2009 under a school improvement contract as part of the company Synesi & Associates, which Solomon currently serves as president.
Solomon laid out on Thursday a multi-faceted approach to the search. He said the firm will place ads in a variety of regional and trade publications, and focus heavily on advertising directed at mobile devices.
The firm will set up a special website to accept applications. The firm plans to interview the most promising candidates, mostly via videoconferencing.
In addition, the firm will develop a “data dashboard” with the academic results of the top potential candidates, have them fill out questionnaires, conduct a five-part background check on the candidates, and finally have them take a test called the “Hogan Leadership Assessment.”
Solomon said the leadership assessment is especially useful because it allows the firm to get past the candidates’ efforts to tailor their message to the school system.
“It’s really hard to trick and I tried,” he said.
Still to be determined is what role if any members of the local community will play in the search. Freiberg has been floating the idea of having a citizens’ committee that would serve as a go-between of the board and the community, but she said Thursday the board is divided on the idea, so she’s dropping it.
“I still intend that we provide numerous opportunities for the public to be involved in helping us to decide who our candidates are going to be,” she said.