Superintendent search at Scottsdale Schools emerges as petition challenge unfolds

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

The Scottsdale Unified School District may soon be moving forward with its search for both an interim and permanent superintendent as approval to hire a search firm is on the Governing Board’s Aug. 14 agenda.

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board discussed responses received from its spring request for qualifications filing during an Aug. 9 study session. Additionally, a community petition has emerged urging the board to extend Acting Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard’s contract, rather than conduct a search for an interim leader.

Possible approval of an interim superintendent and/or superintendent search firm is up for action at the Governing Board’s 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, meeting scheduled at Coronado High School. Possible approval of a contract for Dr. Kriekard is also up for consideration, the Aug. 14 meeting agenda shows.

Dr. John Kriekard (photo by Scottsdale Unified School District)

On May 14, the Governing Board and Dr. John Kriekard agreed upon an employment contract for May 14 through Sept. 13 to serve as acting superintendent.

In April, the SUSD interim superintendent job post and description were listed. Meanwhile, on April 18, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board directed staff to use the request-for-quote process to hire a consultant to assist with the interim superintendent search.

Ultimately, the board would like to find an interim leader quickly, and spend time searching for a permanent superintendent.

The original timeline for the interim superintendent search included screening and interviewing applicants in May.

According to SUSD General Counsel Michelle Marshall, the district asked firms who responded to the interim RFQ to provide a bid for the permanent search as well.

“We had four bids for interim search when we went back out and asked firms to bid on the permanent search,” Ms. Marshall explained to the Governing Board last Thursday. “One of those four firms chose not to bid, and the others gave a new bid for the permanent search.”

Ms. Marshall said that she didn’t have a recommendation as to one firm over the other, and only one was Arizona-based.

Based on documents received from the purchasing department, the Governing Board viewed background documents furnished out of questions in the RFQ, Interim Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gadd said.

“We provide background information, which was furnished because of our questions in the RFQ,” Mr. Gadd said.

“We have not pursued background information. I think we were kind of waiting for the board to tell us if you want us to pursue this on a formal basis — if that’s your desire.”

Mr. Gadd noted that firms can come in to make brief presentations, and that there are a couple of local firms he’s familiar with that weren’t one of the bidders.

“My question is, what is their price if they were to do both?” Ms. Perleberg asked.

Ms. Marshall said she had a couple of Governing Board members ask that same question.

Governing Board member Pam Kirby said she envisioned this process to have community involvement for both the interim and permanent searches.

“I’ll lend my personal opinion on your comments that they’re often the same process,” Ms. Kirby said of discussion comparing the two searches.

“I envisioned when we started down this path something different. And, that is a permanent search process that is very much like (other) districts — community meetings, multiple meetings, what are you looking for you in your superintendent — high engagement.”

Ms. Kirby says on the interim side, she saw community engagement scaled down.

“What I remember mentioning back in May was an option to, for the board, maybe to select three finalists and then have those three finalists presented to the community,” she said.

“My question would be, without seeing what their services were, could we — is that something the board would be interested in? What’s the price point for that kind of a process? And, would they be willing to do that?”

Governing Board member Allyson Beckham pointed out language in two different contracts, noting a $125 criminal background check that could be done sooner rather than later in the process.

“One of the contracts said we only do that on finalists, and another one said, well, if you want it to be done at some time before that. I’d say given our experience we’d want that more extensive ‘Google’ background check as well as the criminal upfront. We don’t want to spend the money to have all these people go through the process and then find out something is wrong.”

Mr. Gadd said all of the Governing Board members’ questions would be asked of the firms and their answers would be relayed back.

“For us, to continue to move down this path on a timely basis, this board member would like those questions answered with clarity by Tuesday. Even better, by tomorrow, so we have the weekend to look at it,” Ms. Kirby said. “Even if you can only give us a couple of answers.”

SUSD parent — and co-founder of the anonymous Respect Our Scottsdale Schools Facebook fanpage — Mike Norton started a petition to retain Dr. Kriekard as interim superintendent while a permanent search unfolds. The Change.org petition, “SUSD SUPERINTENDENT: No Change Until New Board Appointed” has garnered more than 1,200 signatures, he says.

In a community letter signed by Mr. Norton, Rose Wright, Dan Drake, Mark Alan Greenurg, Gayle Holland and 15 other signers, the board is urged to stop the recruitment process and extend Dr. Kriekard’s contract.

“We ask the Governing Board to recognize the beliefs of the community,” the community letter states. “Remove the uncertainty and anxiety that the recruitment process fosters. We are tired of fearing our Governing Board. We are ready to embrace the District leadership once again. Make it easy for us.”

The letter asks that Dr. Kriekard be given an 18 month contract and named interim superintendent.

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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