LAUSD board invites two firms to interview for superintendent search
Mike Szymanski | August 31, 2015
Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for the LA School Report newsletter.
The LA Unified school board made limited progress yesterday in the search for a new superintendent. The members invited two headhunter firms to pitch their ideas on how to handle the search but said three other firms may also still be in the running.
The two leading firms — Hazard, Young and Associates of Rosemont, Ill. and Leadership Associates of La Quinta — each played a role in two former senior LA Unified administrators moving to other jobs. Hazard, Young helped Tommy Chang, superintendent of the Intensive Support and Innovation Educational Service Center, become superintendent of Boston Public Schools, and Leadership Associates helped Chief Strategy Officer, Matt Hill, win the job of superintendent of the Burbank Unified School District.
The two firms were invited to made a follow-up presentation to the board while three others could still be asked to make presentations at some future time. A $250,000 contract with the district awaits the winning company.
The selection was the only public action announced as the members spent more time in closed session than open. Billed as a board “retreat,” it was held at the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center in San Pedro, miles from the usual board meeting setting downtown. The location is part of San Pedro High School and a special environmental education program that has been around since 1926. Buildings look out to the Pacific.
The casual setting was chosen so board members could be more relaxed, in substance and style. The warehouse-like building had fans, and members sat around a table. Mónica García handed out cookies and read a prayer to start the meeting, and each board member read excerpts aloud. Superintendent Ray Cortines showed up wearing shorts, as if his next stop was the beach. School police officers even noted how they had never seen the 83-year-old superintendent wear anything but a suit to a board meeting.
The selection of Leadership Associates drew only four votes, as Mónica Ratliff and Ref Rodriguez voted against, and George McKenna abstained — he declined to say why. All seven members approved Hazard, Young & Associates.
Ratliff and Rodriguez pointed out that Leadership did not spell out a plan for its search candidates as other companies did. “That alone was enough to drop them to the bottom for me,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff, whose staff came up with a comparison table for all five of the companies, also said she was concerned about Leadership’s “relationship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” one of her many objections, she said.
The Foundation helped the provide the seed money for the Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC), charter schools that Rodriguez co-founded, suggesting he might have been concerned over an appearance of a conflict of interests.
Board member Richard Vladovic said the company has a lot of experience and recruited many of the school superintendents in Los Angeles County. Board President Steve Zimmer said he agreed that Leadership “was not clear of what they would actually do” but added, “If we choose them, we have to drill down to the procedures.”
Zimmer said the remaining three companies could still be invited to make presentations to the board members. The remaining three are Ray & Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; McPherson & Jacobsen of Omaha, Neb., and Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Associates from Carmel, a firm that helped with the search for two recent district superintendents, Roy Romer and David Brewer.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow — at the usual place, LA Unified headquarters downtown, where Cortines will likely be wearing a suit.