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Fri, Oct. 18

HUSD hires firm to conduct superintendent search

The Humboldt Unified School District Governing Board is so happy with Search Solutions for finding Superintendent Henry Schmitt seven years ago that it voted Tuesday evening to use the firm to find Schmitt's successor.

On Oct. 6, Schmitt announced his retirement as HUSD superintendent as of June 30, 2010.

The governing board began its search for a new superintendent Oct. 19 at a joint work session with members of the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board.

JoAnne Hilde from Search Solutions and John Gordon from the Arizona School Boards Association explained to the board members the services each offered for a superintendent search.

During its Oct. 20 meeting, the HUSD Governing Board heard a third presentation from Dr. Tom Heck of Ray & Associates, a national superintendent search company.

All three firms help governing boards throughout the state search for a superintendent, beginning with identifying the characteristics the board is looking for and ending when the board offers a candidate a contract.

Since all three firms advertise within the state and nationally, the major difference is in costs.

Search Solutions' fee is $5,000 plus expenses not to exceed $600. ASBA bases its fee on enrollment, about $1 per student. For HUSD, the fee is about $6,500.

Ray & Associates eliminated itself from consideration with a fee of $17,500 plus an estimated additional $6,000 for expenses, such as travel, brochures, advertising costs and so forth.

The board's decision to hire a search firm was not unanimous.

Board member Shelly Damschroder thought the district did not need to hire outside help. She said the district could use its human resources director and that it has a "great internal candidate. We can do our own advertising."

Damscheroder said this is not the time to spend $6,000 to $23,000.

Board member Gary Marks said, "Filling the superintendent position is one of the most critical jobs the board does. Having a firm - though it does not select the superintendent - it does provide qualified candidates."

Board President Howard Moody was disappointed to hear Heck say HUSD has to compete with PUSD. "I don't think that is true," he remarked.

PUSD Superintendent Kevin Kapp also is retiring at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

After Monday's presentations from Search Solutions and ASBA, PUSD board member Dee Navarro said, "This is the first step in finding a new superintendent. We want to start the process sooner than later, and would like to have someone selected by January or February."

Navarro wants the board to hire a firm rather than conducting the search in-house.

"I think we need distance," she said.

As the newest member of the PUSD governing board, Tina Seeley said she has "no inkling" of the process or the amount of work involved in selecting a new superintendent, but she supports hiring a search firm.

"I don't want the board to come across as cheap or not doing its best to find the best person," Seeley said.

The HUSD Governing Board was able to choose a superintendent search firm at its meeting the day after the presentations by ASBA and Search Solutions.

The PUSD Governing Board does not meet again until Nov. 10.

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