Scottsdale Schools lays groundwork for new superintendent search

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board. (File photo)

The search is on again for Scottsdale Unified School District’s next superintendent as the Governing Board dissected its next steps in finding candidates.

Ultimately, the board, at its Sept. 3 meeting, expressed plans for a possible action item to retain Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson’s services in curating candidates or putting out a request for qualifications for a new firm at an upcoming board meeting.

The district initially hired McPherson & Jacobson in 2018 but the firm’s findings did not meet the Governing Board’s expectations. This led the district to offer a contract extension to Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard until the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Dr. Kriekard said McPherson & Jacobson weren’t happy with their results either, offering to do another search for the amount remaining on the previous contract.

The board initially approved a $36,900 contract and Dr. Kriekard said the firm used about $21,000 of that amount. Dr. Kriekard proposed a potential timeline, claiming last year’s search felt rushed since the board was trying to finish the search before the winter break.

He proposed an application deadline shortly after the new year with an end goal of February or March.

Several board members were hesitant on moving forward with McPherson & Jacobson, wondering if this time would be any different than before, despite the fiscal benefits.

“You get what you pay for and this may be less cost, but we want to make sure this is the right approach and we just don’t [want to] throw more money in a direction that may not yield us what we are hoping for,” Board President Patty Beckman said.

Jann-Michael Greenburg

Board member Jann-Michael Greenburg said he hopes this time, the district won’t rush the search and provide a more specific description of what it wants in a superintendent.

“There are very important things, regardless of who our headhunter is, that we need to set out how do we want this process to work out,” he said.

“Do we even have enough direction to tell a headhunter, or search firm, what we are looking for?”

Board members Sandy Kravetz and Barabara Perleberg as well as Board Vice President Allyson Beckham defended the past decision for a condensed search.

Ms. Beckham said she thought it was in the best interest of the district to try to find a new superintendent sooner rather than later. Ms. Perleberg said she thought candidates would come in early since the superintendent post was a high-profile listing.

“I was told ‘your pool is not going to change after the holidays,’” Ms. Perleberg said. “I was told that.”

Regarding McPherson & Jacobson, Ms. Beckham said she met with all of the candidates the firm brought and she believed they understand exactly what the district’s desire was for the job.

Allyson Beckham.

“I don’t feel that the candidates they brought met that,” she said. “And at any point, I did not hear any one of them [McPherson & Jacobson] say to us, ‘we’re sorry. The pool just wasn’t what you think.’ What I heard was, ‘we’ve got four great candidates, any of them would be great for you.’ That is why I have concerns using this firm.”

Ms. Beckham clarified she didn’t think McPherson & Jacobson was unqualified, saying the SUSD job is unique and without a concentrated outline, any firm would struggle.

“We need to be asking some really pointed questions to get to the point where they know exactly what our community is looking for because I continue to think they are qualified and can help districts,” she said.

Mr. Greenburg boiled the discussion of McPherson & Jacobson down to two points: Either the firm wasn’t the right fit or the Governing Board wasn’t specific enough.

Several board members expressed a desire to give McPherson & Jacobson a chance to speak for themselves on how this time would be different.

“If we do meet with them … I just pointedly want to say, ‘make me a believer,’” Ms. Beckman said. “‘What would you do different now than you did before, given the same parameters and if those parameters were inhibiting you to find the right candidates, tell me what you would require and I would like to make a decision regarding that.’”

“If we do meet with them … I just pointedly want to say, ‘make me a believer,’” Ms. Beckman said.

“‘What would you do different now than you did before, given the same parameters and if those parameters were inhibiting you to find the right candidates, tell me what you would require and I would like to make a decision regarding that.’”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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