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Grand Forks superintendent search committee to interview two firms

The superintendent search committee of the Grand Forks School Board plans to interview two firms next week that specialize in recruiting candidates for school districts' top leadership post.

The five-member search committee Tuesday selected Ray and Associates Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and School Exec Connect, Edina, Minn., from among six firms that submitted proposals.

Superintendent Larry Nybladh has announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2018.

Ray and Associates, which was involved in the search that resulted in the hiring of Nybladh nine years ago, indicated its base fee would be $17,500 plus $5,200 in estimated expenses.

The proposal from School Exec Connect listed a base fee of $16,500 plus expenses not to exceed $4,500.

The search committee plans to interview representatives of each firm via videoconferencing "with the idea of making a selection next week," School Board President Carpenter said.

The base costs in the search firms' proposals ranged from $12,500 to $23,000, plus expenses such as travel and lodging.

Their own internet-based advertising is included in the fees, but any additional advertising, for example in specific publications the School Board may deem necessary, is not, Carpenter said.

In determining which firms should be interviewed, committee members considered factors such as cost, advertising services, community engagement, and history of superintendent placement and location of those placements. For example, firms with a record of placing most superintendents on the East Coast or in states outside the Midwest were considered less suitable.

The firms' reputations, experience, and ability to actively recruit superintendents who may not be seeking another job, but who would be ideal candidates, were also discussed.

"(Some say) the best candidates are those who are not looking," Nybladh advised the committee. "They may not be interested (in the job) until something is done to stimulate that interest."

Carpenter said he would like to have the selection of a search firm and the contract terms finalized by the end of next week.

The group must move quickly on the search process, Carpenter has said, because other cities, including Crookston, Bemidji and Moorhead, and possibly in North Dakota, will also be conducting superintendent searches.

Grand Forks will be in competing, in a sense, for the most knowledgeable and capable candidates.

Longtime School Board member, Eric Lunn, said at a recent School Board meeting that the hiring of the superintendent is the board's most important task.

Search committee members are Eric Burin, Carpenter, Amber Flynn and Meggen Sande, all members of the Grand Forks School Board, and Elizabeth Meihaus, president of Grand Forks Air Force Base School Board.

They decided against seeking interviews, at least for the time being, with the firms HYA Executive Search of Schaumberg, Ill.; McPherson and Jacobson, LLC, Omaha, Neb.; Michigan Leadership Institute, Ossineke, Mich., and PEER Solutions, Sauk Rapids, Minn.

Selecting the school district's next superintendent is critical, said Carpenter.

"We're doing a lot of important things, but making sure we have the right person is, in my opinion, the most important thing we're doing this year."