District to look at superintendent search firms

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 21, 2015

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GROSSE POINTES — Eight companies are vying for the chance to assist the Grosse Pointe Public School System in its superintendent search.

During a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27, the school board will discuss the consultants who replied to a request for proposals. The district needs to find someone to replace Superintendent Thomas Harwood, who said he would not seek a renewal after his contract expires this summer.

Three consulting firms from Michigan, three from Illinois, one from Nebraska and another from Iowa replied to the request for proposals. Their bids ranged from $13,000-$27,000.

“They’re all qualified companies,” Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Christian Fenton said. “Some have more experience with schools our size, our qualities.”

Others have more experience with districts that have larger populations, including schools on the East and West coasts.

“We’re very fortunate,” Fenton said. “We’ve got a good number of companies to look at.”

Fenton noted the primary issue for such a big decision isn’t typically cost, but he did say that he felt the prices came in generally lower than he anticipated.

“I don’t think price is driving who you are going to select,” he told the board. “That’s not the primary issue.”

Based on the information submitted, which included reference lists and information on the districts that the firms have worked with in the past, Fenton believes that the board can cut down the field.

“I think we can get it narrowed down to maybe five right away that we can take a hard look at,” he said.

While the district had considered a subcommittee to look at the proposals, Fenton recommended the task be performed by the entire board due to the importance of finding a new district administrative leader.

There was some discussion at the board table concerning the timeline for discussion on superintendent salary in relation to hiring a consulting firm.

“Sooner or later, I would think whoever we select as a search firm is going to be looking at us for how much we are willing to pay for a superintendent,” board Trustee Ahmed Ismail said.

Board Secretary Judy Gafa explained that the last time the district conducted a superintendent search, the search firm helped the district with the process of setting a salary to attract the caliber of leader they wanted to find.

“I feel we’re getting ahead of ourselves,” she said. “We have to get the search firm, and they help us with that piece.”

Ismail, however, said that knowing the salary can help choose a search firm that has experience with finding that caliber of an administrator.

Ismail also had a second concern in that he believed the district needed a profile developed from community input as to what they want in a superintendent.

“I think that’s critical,” he said.

Board Vice President Daniel Roeske said that the community input component was in the request for proposals. They asked the firms for their process for seeking community engagement.

“I’ll be looking at vendors that show a proven process in doing that,” he said.

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