Superintendent Search Presentation
Dr. Melvin Johnson
In April 2014 the board of education voted to ratify an adhoc committee to research and collect information on best practices for the superintendent search and provide their findings to the full board. Since that time, the board had held multiple discussions in open meetings each month and taken several actions including the release of two RFQs to procure a search firm. You can track the superintendent search process on the district’s website.
On December 8th 2014 the board held a committee of the whole meeting to discuss the consideration of sole be it responder for RFQ 15-26R for superintendent search firm. After a robust discussion, the board was in consensus to invite PROACT search to participate in an interview with the board in an open meeting.
Today we have Mr. Gary Solomon, CEO of PROACT search. Mr. Solomon will make a presentation for the board and I invite my fellow board members to ask their questions as we flow through the presentation.
Gary Solomon – CEO of PROACT Search
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Marshall Orson – School Board
I get the community engagement piece which is broadly touching large segments and large numbers of people to get their feedback for the ideal candidate. That doesn’t seem to be incompatible with also having a community driven committee. Which is either a representative sample of stakeholders that can in concert with you review resumes and reducing the pool of candidates to something manageable for the board to look at … whether it’s 8 or 10 or 12 or whatever.
At that point, we would look at the subset which is just a byproduct … whether we just entrust you to do it or as many people including myself would like to see a community driven … the functioning would be the same. Who is doing it might be different. That function is to get a manageable group of candidates for the board to interview or further reduce the pool and then for us to make the final decision whether it’s a sole person, or a few people … which is another topic.
This is ultimately a board decision to make. I want to caution the board that if I were to call a candidate and tell them their resume is going to be in the wind with people not on the board, it would cause pause. Not overcomable pause. I know candidates, if I were to tell them I was turning their resume over to an external committee, it would cause additional ???
But you’ve done those searches. It’s listed right here. Cleveland, El Paso, Memphis, so clearly you’ve had positive experiences.
And I’ve cautioned them about the pause each time.
Would you conclude that these have been successful searches?
Yes. You mentioned Florida?
I mentioned universities there use a practice in which they have 3 finalists.
Sunshine laws in Florida say that if you apply, you’re immediately part of the public domain. Boards ask if it affects the candidate pool. It’s disingenuous to say it will not.
1. Can you highlight our strengths and weaknesses and how you would address our weaknesses.
2. Our community engagement wants to be acknowledged that their voice is being heard. How do you validate their input? We’ve all been to numerous community engagement meetings. They’re often much communication that goes on for hours.
2nd question. It’s disingenuous to ask a group to tell us what you think and then not represent them. We create two drafts and at the end of February … we would create a monumental stake holder engagement report that we submit to the board that shapes the position profile.
Thad Mayfield – School Board
If selected, given our interest in a collaborative search support committee, how should we prepare for your engagement?
Agree on roles and responsibility. Agree on timeline. Think about what you want globally and individually what you want in your next Superintendent. Think about what people you want involved.
Dr. Melvin Johnson – Board Chair
I want to thank on behalf of the board Mr. Solomon for his presentation. I call for a motion to amend the agenda to add as an action item to approve the hiring of PROACT search firm.
[moves to do amend the agenda] [it passes]
Dr. Joyce Morley – Board member
[move to act on the new action item to approve PROACT]
John Coleman – Board member
PROACT’s presentation was excellent and has excellent credentials … [01:34:44] … talking about the process.
1. I like the broader community engagement. I’m glad we are going to do that up front and get feedback from the public.
2. I have reservations about bringing 3 or 4 finalists in for a public engagement.
In addition to the community engagement, it would be helpful if the board partnered with a smaller group of leaders in our community who have been either in executive leadership positions or been in the capacity of hiring executive leaders.
Mr. Chairman, I thought we had this discussion before. If we’re going to hire a search firm, and we’re going to follow a process, procedures and protocols to put this all together. Most certainly we have to engage. But, as we start getting different factions and different committees here and there, there has to be a place for a committee to be held and be a part of this.
The reason for hiring a search firm is to do just what they are going to do, that’s to search. It has been stipulated and stated as to where this committee would be, I think that we would be going down a previous path. I think it would become too unwielding, unmanageable, and then it comes down to who are the people you’re going to put down there.
I think we have to begin to look at setting some standards and keeping the integrity, not only of the process, but of the people as Mr. Solomon said, that you’re trying to bring in a recruit. And protecting them, as many of them are still in jobs. I think there has to be place, and we cannot have an aside. In that case, the board may as well do it’s own search, have this committee and go ahead and we don’t need Mr. Solomon here anymore. We don’t need a firm anymore.
I think we have to be realistic about what our role is. Stay in our lanes and do what is necessary. But, each time we bring these various factions in, it only makes it more heightened. We have to recognize what is the place and where should this committee be. It has been quite well put as to where this engagement should take place. I really believe we need to follow it.
We’ve had this discussion at board meetings before and we keep revisiting the same things over and over again. We say we want to move with the process, but then I have to begin I have to begin to [ask] the question, what is the benefit and what are we trying to do and who are we trying to satisfy?
I would support a collaborative search committee to work with the board.
I’ve never hired a Superintendent before. I’m not expert except for in financial services. I do have the ability to surround myself with people who are specialists and experts to help guide me in things they know. My first question is for Dr. Erwin and Dr. Carter, who hires the Superintendent at the universities you work for.
It depends. In the private sector you go through a search process like we discussed at the prior board meeting. The search committee is established by the board of trustees, which is similar to us. They invite stakeholders, alumna, community leaders just as this organization has proposed in the package they provided.
In the university system, the board of regents establishes a search process. In that search process they engage members of the college, stakeholders, business leaders. Columbus State University is under search and is a good example of that. It looks very similar to what PROACT has proposed. Not to have an external organization or committee of experts, as important as that is, to lead and guide us. It is clear that the role, responsibility, and fiduciary legal obligations sit with the board.
All searches I’ve been a part of include the community like PROACT lays out. I think it’s inappropriate for this region at this time to go off message and do something that’s outside the standards set. In this region, it would suggest that we are operating outside the flow of education.
Mr. McMahan, I have been a part of the hiring of the Superintendent in Rochester. This is the same process.
We have some division about the process and how it will work. I don’t think what Mr. Coleman and Mayfield are talking about is incompatible or an abandonment of our fiduciary responsibilities as a board of education. We are talking about empowering some proxies to do initial sifting along with you. Not an external entity with no connectivity to the BOE.
We need to be mindful of our last few searches. Mr. Thurmond was hired under crisis and was available. Our searches before that had hiccups. I think there is a way to harmonize this. I think we need some of the profiling and the development of the characteristics.
I don’t think this is incompatible with having a committee of high profile community leaders that partner with us to help work with you to reduce the pool of candidates to something manageable for us. We’re at a critical junction, we’re building community trust.
There is a consistent message across the county that they would like a subset of the community to have a more active role in the vetting process knowing the board has the final decision.
Let me make sure I am hearing this correctly. The model Mr. Solomon gave us tonight and explained in my opinion explains everything we all have been talking about. Not to exclude any of the pertinent leaders. I would expect them all to be a part of this community engagement. It’s not a committee … that word has been overused. These are people and stakeholders that will be added to the community engagement group. Below that, unless I’m seeing something wrong, then the model goes to the community.
The authority this group will have is what we are all saying, other than the fact of bringing one candidate back to the board. What I see here is the board and PROACT will be involved in the total process. However, the community engagement will be used as a vehicle for community engagement to ensure the community is involved in the process.
Whatever happens in the process, the board of education will have the final, at least the final three candidates, to actually vote on or make a determination.
Is that right?
As I understood the discussion, everything you said are decisions the board needs to make. The motion from the table is to hire the firm and not the process or what the support committee does or looks like.
Correct, however, I want to make sure the community understands what we are talking about.
Do we need to amend the motion to be inclusive of the framework they have proposed in the RFP?
I think so.
Again, I go back. We are constantly bringing in professionals. We do it at this level with the administrative team here. We do it all the time. We have professionals who are experts that we have engaged to put together a process that will allow us to do what needs to be done. It incenses me that throughout this whole process, there are all these clarifiers and we want to change it and make it be what we personally want. If you’re going to hire the firm, we’re supposed to be to make sure the process is one that we can get done what we need to get done, but we still have some things. I’ve asked a question even at the last board meeting. Help me to understand, why do we keep bringing in, then we want to make it be what we want it to be personally or otherwise.
Who are we doing this for? If we’re doing it for all boys and girls at some point this board has got to stop delaying things and you have a process here on paper that is not just thrown together. We’ve asked the pertinent questions. We’ve seen this firm has been all over the country … There are some people bent on having everybody … you cannot have everyone from top to bottom being in a process throughout. It’s going to actually muddy the waters and we know before Mr. Thurmond some of the mistakes that were made before. I will not be a part of this board that does this injustice to the boys and girls in the DeKalb County School System. Nor to the taxpayers and stakeholders because or whatever else is out there. That we’re trying to accomplish by having a group that we want to choose to be a part of this process.
We have the firm. The firm has laid out that there will be engagement. That whole process lists everything here. Mr. McMahan has clarified what we mean by education institutions … … …
The whole thing that is stopping this is some of us want to be able to have our own group of people that we want to be up front from top to bottom who is making the decision. I go back again and say, why don’t we let Mr. Solomon go? Why don’t we let the board do what it be? And the board should not be a part of going through 80 applications and doing that. That’s why we have a search firm. Again, we’re out of our lane. We’re not here to be attorneys. We’re not here to be other roles that we’re supposed to … we’re board members and we’re not acting in the best interest of our children if we keep wanting to infuse our personal wants and wishes into this.
Mr. Chairman, I would advise that we limit this motion to just hiring the firm. The other issues, procedural issues, process issues, whether we create …
Well you brought it up.
I just asked if PROACT could work with that. The motion before us is simple, whether we hire PROACT as our search firm. Clearly this requires further discussion and exploration.
All in favor of hiring PROACT.