Board members on today unanimously approved a contract with Illinois-based firm BWP & Associates for $15,500, plus expenses.
Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, the former executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards who now works with BWP, will lead the Alabama-based consulting team that will handle the search.
“I think she came highly recommended,” said board member C.K. Huguley, who said she checked references with people who have done recent superintendent searches in the state. “I’m in full support of someone who is looking for the cream of the crop for this city system.”
Sims-DeGraffenried met with the school board at its work session last week, explaining how her firm would conduct the search.
“My goal would be to bring you an outstanding slate of candidates,” she told the board then. “I want to make it so hard for you that you just about can’t make a decision.”
The BWP team, she said, recruits administrators aggressively. She said the majority of the candidates they draw come from the Southeast, but they do occasionally pick up candidates from outside the region.
In addition to Sims-DeGraffenreid’s impressive presentation and the additional reach that comes with using a national firm, said Klinefelter, one of the main reasons to hire a firm is to keep the applications private.
Under Alabama law, if the Board of Education conducts the search itself, all applications submitted to it become public record. But with BWP, all applications are property of the search firm until they turn them over to board, by which time consultants will have whittled down the applicant pool to the top candidates for interviews.
“I think that we will get a larger pool of applicants that way,” Klinefelter said. “Because if you’re superintendent somewhere or high school principal, you might not want the board or everyone else to know you’re looking for another position.”
The Board of Education also considered using the superintendent search service provided by the Alabama Association of School Boards, whose executive director, Sally Howell, met with the board at its retreat two weeks ago.
The organization offers three levels of search service ranging in cost from $6,000 for the basic search to $12,000 plus advertising expenses to list the position in national publications and for additional facilitation for interview prep with the board members.
Although the board moved forward with its search consultant today, it postponed voting on a consultant to help with the school system’s strategic plan in order to open up the selection process.
Though most board members were ready to hire William J. Cook of the Cambrian Group, Huguley said she felt that the board should consider additional candidates.
“I feel that in fairness, we should be a little more open,” she told members.
Huguley said she didn’t intend to exclude Cook, but simply to be more inclusive in the process and practice good stewardship.
Board members agreed to send out a request for proposals next week, with all replies due back by Aug. 15. Any presentations from additional candidates will be made prior to the Board of Education’s Sept. 19 meeting, where members intend to vote on a chosen consultant.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a $48,450 contract with Gorrie-Regan for the replacement and maintenance of the district’s employee sign-in system for the coming year. Jimmie Thompson III, chief schools financial officer, said the biometric system scans employees’ hands to verify their presence in district buildings. Beyond serving to keep track of time for hourly employees, he said, the system will also account for every employee in a building in case of a disaster.
• Postponed approving the parent/student and faculty handbooks until its Aug. 15 meeting in order to make revisions, including a possible change to the grading scale. Currently, students pass with a grade of a 60 or above, a number some members said was too low.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.