Board of Education selects superintendent search firm

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 19, 2023

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The Grosse Pointe Board of Education has chosen the firm that will lead its search for a new superintendent for the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

During a meeting Sept. 12 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms, the board voted unanimously in favor of selecting the Michigan Association of School Boards, which has an arm that offers executive search services. MASB was the low bidder, at $10,000, plus expense reimbursement, to conduct the search, but the decision was about more than just price.

“We were unanimous that we go with MASB,” said board member Lisa Papas, who served on the committee that looked at search firms along with board members Sean Cotton and Colleen Worden.

Cotton, who thanked his fellow committee members, said they interviewed representatives from three search firms during the first week of September and the final firm on Sept. 11.

Papas said MASB was the “most economical” choice, but the board members also felt that MASB had the most to offer.

“We were interested in having a firm that understood Michigan, that understood the Michigan process,” Papas said.

For example, in Michigan, finalists for school district superintendent positions must be interviewed publicly — something that’s not the case in other states.

“I thought that all four firms gave nice presentations,” Worden said. “I think, in the end, we focused on the firm that emphasized (the) process.”

Board member Valarie St. John asked whether they were looking at internal candidates, since even MASB noted that, if they wanted to promote a current school district official to superintendent, they could avoid the cost of hiring a search firm.

“You still want to engage a search firm … to vet that process,” Cotton responded.

Jay Bennett, assistant director of executive search services for MASB, said they “can start with an internal search process” and go to an external search later, if the board wants. One of the questions he said they ask is how important it is that the candidate be someone already familiar with the district, something that indirectly addresses the question of whether the board would prefer an internal candidate to an external one.

Regardless of the scope of the search, Bennett said the MASB plans to do public engagement and get input from stakeholders as the MASB looks for the most appropriate fit for the district.

Board members said MASB will give them the best results from the four firms they reviewed.

“We think they offer a lot for the money we’re going to spend with them.” Papas said.