12/08/2014 – Superintendent Search

Dr. Melvin Johnson – DeKalb Schools Board Chair
Superintendent Search RFQ
In April 2014 – The board of education voted to ratify an adhoc committee to research and collect information on the best practices for the Superintendent search and provide their findings to the full board.  Since that time, the board has held multiple discussions in open meetings and taken several actions including release of two RFQs to procure a search firm.
It is vitally important that the board provide transparency during the Superintendent search process.  To that end, the district has provided a dedicated website for the search process.  The stakeholders can track the progress, engage in the activities and provide input and feedback.
Before we begin, I’d like Ramona Tyson to give us a tour of the website.
Ramona H. Tyson, Chief of Staff, Office of the Superintendent
In the middle of the DeKalb Schools home page, a link to the Superintendent Search is prominently displayed.  The subtabs on the superintendent search page are Search Process, Timeline, Public Engagement, Leadership Profile, FAQs, Feedback.
Search Process
At the top of the page is a date of the last update.  This is a summary of where we are with the search process.  At the bottom is the schedule of the board meetings.
Month to month timeline of the search process.
Public Engagement
Once a search firm is selected, the firm will implement a board approved process to include stakeholders.   The schedule of these engagements will be communicated in various different ways including this site.  You can submit your email address to sign up for updates.
Leadership Profile
This page will be fluid and will change as the board and the search firm work with the community to develop a leadership profile to identify a profile used to search for the superintendent.
This will be continually updated with the most commonly asked questions.
Please send us feedback with your suggestions on how this process can be improved.
Thad Mayfield – Board Member
Can you provide a summary of the feedback you get?
Tyson – Sure
The PROACTS placement in the last 5 years, 88% of their placements have lasted longer than 3 years.  PROACT has a 5 phase approach to provide an extensive community engagement.  See slide show for PROACT’s sale pitch …
The evaluation team recommends that DCSD board completes the evaluation process by interviewing PROACT search in a committee of the whole.
Mayfield – PROACT only scored 89.5 out of 100 on the rubric?  Are we considering filling the gaps with anything?
Ramona Tyson – [goes through how PROACT receives an 89.5]  The 10% gap comes from their ability to execute.  Also, PROACT was terminated by Atalanta Public Schools (APS).
Johnson – I asked why they were fired by APS.  They said it was because we wanted to give the board at least 3 candidates and the committee only wanted to bring 1 name to the full board.  That was the conflict.
Mayfield – Did you verify that with APS?
Johnson – No
John Coleman – When do we decide on a strategy and how much to fund the marketing campaign?
Johnson – We need to pick the search firm first and get recommendations from them.
Jim McMahan – PROACT told me that we won’t spend more than $25K on marketing.
Marshall Orson – We should get clarification from APS.  The board as a whole interviewed multiple candidates but only wanted to have one finalist.
Big executive searches are expensive and the cost here seems low.  The individual credentials of the members of the firm are fine.  I have a concern with their bandwidth and commitment to us being their first priority.  They may also be engaged to represent Charlotte.  This may be a conflict of interest.
Dr. Joyce Morley – I have several concerns.  With a national search, you have to pay national fees.  It’s a tale-tale sign that we’ve had 2 RFQs and only one responded.  We might be looking for the grass that’s always greener and end up with artificial turf.
Look at where we are and where we came from over the last 2 years.  If PROACT is representing Charlotte, that’s a problem.  If we don’t know what our own needs are, we can’t tell a firm what we need [ .. series of non coherent points …]
Mayfield – We need to consider where PROACT is coming up short and figure out how to fill that gap.
Coleman – We should interview them and ask them these questions.  There is also the concept of the independent search committee that could help fill the gap.  It’s common practice and brings many benefits.
Are we willing to pursue the independent search committee option?
Johnson – Are we talking about a committee selected by the search firm?  That’s a problem.  If it’s a part of the search firm, then it’s workable.
Coleman – I think we need to partner the board, committee and firm.
Johnson – I don’t think we want a group that supersedes the search firm.  That’s what happened in APS.
Let’s look at and decide on a search firm.  Then we’ll figure out with the search firm how to move forward.
Dr. Morley – A search firm is independent.  We don’t want a search committee to do the search firm’s job.  Why are we hiring a search firm then?
Carter – How this works should come from the search firm.
Dr. Morley – [ … the committee makes things convoluted.  Let the search firm do their job.]  I know about the APS process.  When we start getting people certain people in certain decisions, what happens to the other people that weren’t part of that decision … then we’ve got a problem.
Orson – We are at a philosophical crossroads.  Historically this has been a board-centric search process.  We need to not repeat those mistakes.
I look at this as a citizen screening committee, select elders of our community to help us screen the candidates to give us a perspective different than we had in the past.
Atlanta’s last search was perceived to have been a successful process.  Using the community to help screen helps build the legitimacy and acceptance of the final decision ultimately vested with the board.
Dr. Johnson – This is a new day in DeKalb.  We don’t want to go back.  We did a great job picking our last superintendent.  We all want the community involved.  I hear us all agree that the board has the final decision.  The search firm will generate the process to bring us the best candidates.
If you’re going to have a search firm over here and an independent committee over here, we’re going to have a problem.  Let’s bring them all together and align them.
Mayfield – What I hear from the community is that they want key community stakeholders to have a substantive role in the decision making process and that it is not superficial or peripheral to the process.
Michael Thurmond (DeKalb Schools Superintendent)
When I hear the conversation that we’ve gotten it wrong every time, that’s not true.  It’s a lie.  The last two years tell me the board got it right.  If you want high quality people to come here, discard that lie.  Deficit driven strategies rarely work.  You can’t let what went wrong drive your decisions.
If you look at the recent history, I’m sure the people who hired Dr. Lewis said it was a great hire.  History will determine how good or bad it is.
Dr. Morley – I’m on a merry-go-round.  If we can get to where we are on a board where we don’t dissect every little piece like we’re in a chemistry class.  We’ve been saying from the onset, we want other people involved.
We did get it right with Mr. Thurmond.  That behooves me.  No one gets on TV and talks about this turnaround.
When you start getting other people involved, you jeopardize the security of the process.  We don’t know if APS was successful.  I’ve heard plenty of people complain.  We just don’t know.
Coleman – Let’s get feedback from the search firm about an independent search committee.
Johnson – I would like to hear from each board member what they would like the role of the independent search committee to be.
Mayfield – Perhaps it would be appropriate to submit it.
Johnson – OK.  Tell me what and who.
Campbell – This conversation is basically semantics.  For transparency sake, it’s important we use the firm to involve the community.  The community needs to be at the table.
Dr. Michael Erwin – I agree with Mr. Campbell.  Are we voting on this recommendation today?
Johnson – Is it the consensus that we bring in PROACT for an interview?  I would ask the superintendent to bring PROACT in for an interview.
It’s important to note that the APS superintendent was placed in Austin.