Saturday, June 25, 2016

Should Joplin use a superintendent search firm?

I have mixed feelings about hiring a search firm to find a superintendent for the Joplin R-8 School District.

Why should taxpayers have to spend up to $50,000 to hire an out-of-town (out-of-state, actually) firm to find a superintendent?

After all, the district used a search firm in 2008 and the best we could come up with was C. J. Huff. If that is not an argument against outside companies conducting our search, I don't know what it is.

That's like working all the way through the Crackerjack box to find out your prize could be used to fertilize your lawn.

What would be wrong with having seven intelligent people advertise in and out of state for superintendent candidates, choose five or six finalists, thoroughly research them and select a new leader for the school district?

Or we could have the Board of Education do it. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.)

One of the criticisms of these search firms is that we end up with the same type of recycled candidates, who will stay in a community a few years then use the same search firm to land their next position in another school district.

And then the search firms always tell us we have to increase the superintendent's salary in order to attract the best possible candidates. How else can you explain Joplin's decision to pay the inexperienced C. J. Huff, who only had four years as superintendent of the much smaller Eldon School District more money than Jim Simpson had been making? Simpson not only had more experience, but had led the district to being accredited with distinction.

But we had to pay the new guy more money or we wouldn't get anyone to apply for the job.

That does not make any sense.

MSBA also did not appear to do much of a background check on Huff. Many of the problems he had in Eldon surfaced again in Joplin and ended up costing us millions plus hundreds of teachers.

Thankfully, the R-8 Board did not select MSBA as one of the three finalist firms which will make presentations during the 6 p.m. Tuesday board meeting.

But still, is it necessary for us to hire a search firm? Did we need a search firm to find Norm Ridder to serve as interim superintendent?

Consider the case of the Fayetteville School District.

A few months ago, Fayetteville hired a new superintendent, a qualified candidate from Illinois, if I recall, and the board of education did it without a search firm.

It can be done.

Wait a minute! I just remembered something.

One of the finalists for the Fayetteville job was C. J. Huff.

Going without a search firm almost brought a disaster to Fayetteville.

It's never easy.


Anonymous said...

Wow. A search committee. Something most organizations use.
Why not a couple of board members and some teachers (maybe even some retired) from ALL grade levels. People know R8 needs a new super. There should be plenty of applicants.
No need to spend more money on this mess.

Anonymous said...

A necessary step...costly yes,but not as much as another Huffistake. VETTING candidates is crucial,hope they select a firm with longest/strongest track record..Yes,they may have to pay more but have you seen the life expectancy of retired superintendents? The job is the toughest in public for someone with a strong record,let them make improvements,if they stay fine but don't be surprised by turnover caused by many varables...salary cannot compensate for a hostile press,vindictive board member or a community that as a whole does not value education..Randy you have done a great service to Joplin please give this process a chance.

Anonymous said...

And when you mention a committee of intelligent locals to do a hiring search, well, what leaps to mind is the EVER so brilliant job the CART bunch did when they hired Wallace-Bajalli.

Anonymous said...

Msba also puts some of the most successful superintendents in place throughout the state. One firm isn't any better than the other. The firm asks the board what they are looking for by utilizing a detailed set of questions. They also have in depth discussions. They scan and interview candidates. THE BOARD makes the final selection.

Anonymous said...

607pm yes,Board does make the decision,but please look at results of firms being's not as simple as you state

Anonymous said...

6:48: yes, it is. Let's not make this out to be rocket science.