Scottsdale Schools outlines fresh approach to superintendent search

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board, Acting Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard and Executive Admin Coordinator to Superintendent & Gov. Board Sondra Como. (photo by SUSD)

Legwork is now beginning to find the next permanent leader for Scottsdale Schools as term agreements have been settled between the local school district and a national recruiting firm.

After an Aug. 30 Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approval, Nebraska-based McPherson and Jacobson LLC, a national recruiting and development firm, will be assisting SUSD in their quest for a new superintendent.

Tenants of the agreement include meeting with and cultivating community input, meeting with the Governing Board and presenting qualified candidates, Dr. Thomas Jacobson explained to the Governing Board during an Aug. 30 conference call.

The Governing Board is looking to begin the search process in September.

Earlier in the month, the Governing Board voted to enter into discussions with McPherson & Jacobson for a permanent superintendent search, and abandon an interim superintendent search to instead extend Acting Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard’s contract through June 30, 2019, or until a permanent leader is selected.

“At your last regular Governing Board meeting you tentatively selected McPherson and Jacobson, and asked me to follow-up with the vendor after you had a chance to provide me with any additional questions,” Scottsdale Schools Legal Counsel Michelle Marshall said, prefacing the Governing Board’s discussion.

Through the telephone, Ms. Marshall brought Dr. Jacobson in to the meeting to discuss the firm’s next steps and answer remaining Governing Board questions, which mostly focused on logistics of the process.

Three Governing Board meetings will be scheduled to work with the recruiting firm and its local consultants, comprised of education professionals, Dr. Mary Kamerzell of Tucson, Patrick Nauroth of Cave Creek and Jennifer Tanner of El Mirage.

“This is your search, we want to make sure it goes where you want to go,” Dr. Jacobson said on Aug. 30.

“When we get to involvement of community groups we will bring in a group of consultants. We will try to form that team after our first meeting based on your needs. You have the right to approve anyone that works for you.”

Dr. Jacobson says the three meetings will be used to create a calendar, criteria and direction of which stakeholders to meet with; a report of what was heard from the stakeholder groups, interview questions and schedule; and presenting individuals most closely meeting the desired criteria.

“The third meeting is the really big meeting, the important one,” Dr. Jacobson said.

“We’re presenting individuals to you we think are most closely meeting the criteria we heard from you and your community. We’ll be spending time giving you background information on these individuals, we’ll have video tapes from them, and report from what we heard in the vetting process.”

Dr. Jacobson says his firm has 115 consultants, and about 900 registered individuals.

“We don’t have a stable of candidates, we’re not just going to bring people in front of you,” he said. “Once you’ve developed your candidate criteria, we’re going to reach out to individuals we believe have that skill-set. Our goal is to have quality individuals in front of you.”

Dr. Jacobson says he recommends including stakeholders in meeting the candidates, as deciding on a new superintendent is a two-way decision-making process.

“The candidate is choosing you as much as you’re choosing them,” he pointed out.

“What are good things about your school district, what do you brag about? We sell you to the candidates as we go about — we encourage you to include stakeholders in meeting the candidates. You’re selling yourself to the candidates; forming an opinion, you’re going to share with the board. It really is a two-way decision making process.”

Dr. Jacobson says there will be ample opportunity for the community to provide input, as a Survey Monkey survey will be created for people who can’t attend the public scheduled meetings.

“We know we can’t meet everyone because of that schedule, we’ll also post the survey electronically on Survey Monkey,” he said. “Our goal is that no one in the district can say they didn’t have an opportunity to be a part of this process.”

Tenets of the agreed upon contract between SUSD and McPherson and Jacobson LLC were not readily available at the time of publication.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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