Iowa-based firm will search for new school superintendent

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board has selected a search firm to help find the successor to former superintendent Cindy Stevenson.

The board heard presentations from two search firms at its Feb. 18 study session, and Ray and Associates was selected to find potential candidates to lead Colorado’s largest school district. 

Iowa-based Ray and Associates will charge $44,580 for its search, which will include conducting community meetings, recruiting, screening, interviewing and selecting a final pool of candidates.

Along with the firm’s fee, Jeffco will be responsible for travel and accommodations for final candidates during interviews.

The other firm, ProAct Search, said its cost would be $25,000, plus candidate accommodations. 

The selection process

Representatives from both firms gave presentations and answered questions from school board members Feb. 18.

“The average tenure for a superintendent today is three years. (Ray and Associates’ average tenure) is running at about eight years,” said Gary Ray, adding that his firm has never been terminated during 38 years of conducting superintendent searches.

Gary Solomon of ProAct Search said his company focuses on community involvement and board cohesiveness during a superintendent search.

“Looking for a new superintendent is a contentious time for a school district, and we realize that,” Solomon said. “I’d like to tell you that we will find you a candidate that every board member will love, but that’d be a lie. But we will find a candidate who is best for this district.”

Ray and Associates offered a two-year guarantee — if the candidate doesn’t work out, the firm will conduct another search for free. ProAct Search’s warranty was for one year.

“I was partial to Ray and Associates,” board member Jill Fellman said. “They had the experience.”

“Listening to both, I felt Ray and Associates had much more experience,” said board President Ken Witt. “I think they have the overall ability to deliver a quality candidate.”

Board members filled out a ballot and were instructed to rank each firm with a “1” or a “2.”

Witt, Fellman, and Lesley Dahlkemper rated Ray and Associates with a “1.” Board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams gave their top rating to ProAct Search.

“Either firm was a win-win,” Newkirk said. “I did notice the disparity in costs, however.”

Fellman had mixed feelings about the goal of selecting a superintendent by May.

“I’m concerned about the timeline,” she said. “March is not a good month to work with teachers and the community. You have testing and spring break.”

Williams asked what would stop Ray and Associates from recruiting Jeffco’s new superintendent for another district in the future.

“We don’t fish in our own pond,” Ray said. “All kidding aside, we don’t go back to recruit candidates who we place. However, we can’t stop a candidate from applying for a job.”

Ray and Associates will begin its search by hosting meetings in the community to get feedback from district stakeholders. Meetings have yet to be scheduled.

Stevenson’s last day was Feb. 21; she resigned earlier this month, despite her original plan to stay for the remainder of the school year, saying the three board members elected last November didn’t respect her.