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Two firms meeting LAUSD board to start superintendent search

Mike Szymanski | September 1, 2015

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superintendent searchThe interview process starts today at the LA Unified school board meeting, with plans to hear from representatives of two headhunter firms in the search for the district’s next superintendent.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Rosemont, Ill. and Leadership Associates of La Quinta, Calif. were picked from among five bidders by the board on Sunday. They were also the two firms with the highest price tags: Hazard Young cited a cost of $160,000, followed by Leadership, at $157,500 — up to $30,000 of that is for expenses. The lowest bid was Ray and Associates, Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa at $63,350.

Two of the school board members voted against asking Leadership to present before the board, and one abstained. When contacted by LA School Report today, Leadership Executive Team member Jim Brown said that he plans to arrive from Santa Fe, N.M. to make his pitch to the board at 4 p.m.

Brown said he felt the firm answered all the questions that were asked in the initial Request for Proposal letter by the board.

“We do have a game plan, and we are happy to answer any of the board members’ concerns,” he said. “We did not want to inundate the board with papers, but we will meet with the board to develop a process for the search.”

One concern raised by board member Mónica Ratliff, who voted against inviting Leadership (along with Ref Rodriguez), was that it had ties to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Brown said no one is or has been directly working with the Gates Foundation, but that a group funded by the foundation hired the firm to consult.

WestEd, an education consulting, research and training group, asked Leadership to do a search last year. WestEd is funded by the Gates Foundation.

“It is a legitimate question, and we will be happy to explain it in more detail to the board,” Brown said.

Both search firms are considered smaller boutique companies with about a dozen employees each, compared with the “largest and oldest” firm of its kind, Ray & Associates, which has 170 associates and has operated since 1975.

Hazard, Young, which opened in 1987, said in its proposal the total search and appointment time would take 12 to 16 weeks, which would be within the time when Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he wants to step down. The company would offer a warranty, meaning there is no further fee if the candidate leaves within a year, or for as long as the board remains the same.

Leadership Associates, which opened in 1996, said it would complete the task by February, and the 12 partners (many who have been school superintendents themselves) would be involved in every step of the process.

Hazard, Young helped recruit leaders for more than 1,000 school districts, including Boston Public Schools, which hired as its new superintendent Tommy Chang, a former LAUSD deputy superintendent. The firm also helped find superintendents in Virginia Beach City, Baltimore, Baldwin Park and Fairfax County, Texas. The firm says 90 percent of the 328 superintendents it helped hire since 2000 are still in their positions or committed four or more years.

Leadership Associates was involved with getting LAUSD’s Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill hired by Burbank as superintendent. He was heavily involved in the problem-plagued MiSiS system at LAUSD. The company also conducted searches in Pittsburgh, Oakland and many in Southern California with 95 percent remaining in their positions for more than five years.

“I’ll bet you $5 dollars that they helped pick most of the school superintendents in Southern California,” board member Richard Vladovic said at the Sunday board meeting. According to Brown, Vladovic would win that bet. “That would be correct,” he confirmed.

The Hazard Young team will be lead by Hank Gmitro, the company’s president, and William Attea, an expert in superintendent searches. The national search team would include Rudy Castuita, former San Diego superintendent; Carol Johnson, retired Boston superintendent, and others while a California-specific team would consist of Joseph M. Farley and Darline Robles, who were superintendents of large California districts, Anaheim and Montebello, respectively.

Leadership Associates has a strategy that includes online surveys, public input and interviews that would be a part of during the process. The team includes Kent L. Bechler, who served as superintendent of the Corona-Norco Unified School District and attended two LAUSD schools; Marc Ecker, former superintendent of the Fountain Valley; Michael Escalante, past superintendent from Glendale; Richard Fischer who is past superintendent of Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the Harmony Union School Districts and others.


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