DALLAS — The Dallas School Board may consider postponing its search for a permanent superintendent for a year, and extending interim superintendent Andy Bellando’s contract for a year.
Board chair Mike Blanchard said at the board’s Nov. 25 meeting that he had received two proposals: from a search firm and Oregon School Boards Association. Both had timelines starting this month, which gave the board until its Dec. 10 meeting to pick a proposal.
Blanchard said OSBA works with Greg McKenzie with Window to Leadership LLC. The other proposal was from Human Capital Enterprises.
“I asked them to put together a sketch of the process, a price and a timeline,” Blanchard said.
McKenzie conducted the district’s most recent search, out of which the board hired Michelle Johnstone. Board member Jon Woods said he wasn’t happy with that process.
“What would it look like if we did this ourselves?” Woods asked. “It’s about advertising in the right spots. Part of the expense in the contract fee is advertising on online job boards, which I would assume is an option for us to do by ourselves, or they need special access to that? Not that that’s all there is to it. I’m just raising the question, is this something that we can do ourselves at all, or do we need them to do advertising?”
Woods said that some of the candidates who made to the interview phase of the last search were not qualified.
“The reason I bring this up because I feel like there’s a good majority of the candidates who were not qualified, and those were candidates that were sifted through,” Wood said. “I can find plenty of unqualified candidates myself, I guess. I’m just putting it out there.”
Board member Dave Hunt said he would rather pay a higher price for a better search and said he like Human Capital Enterprises’ proposal, submitted by the company’s president Hank Harris.
“When I read these, my sense was Hank’s focus is to get to know us and our needs a whole lot better than they did the last time,” Hunt said. “We might be paying more money for it, but what we are going to get is a level of attentiveness that I think we didn’t have the first time.”
Hunt said the OSBA proposal read more like McKenzie would let the district know what would be best for it.
“If we can’t afford (Human Capital Enterprises) then we might as well jump in and do our own, because it didn’t work for us last time,” Hunt said.
Board member Mike Bollman said he attended a seminar at OSBA’s recent conference about recruiting superintendents. He said the seminar speaker said there’s a shortage of qualified educators in the state. Bollman said OSBA and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators have teamed up to provide training to administrators wanting to step up to the superintendent role.
“The bottom line is, the two associations are partnering, and they are creating a mentorship program for folks that are interested in becoming a superintendent, say a teacher-leader or a principal, or (those at) other levels of administration,” Bollman said. “I was super impressed with the combining of the two efforts. One of the themes was really to kind of grow-your-own because there is shortage across Oregon right now.”
Blanchard said there are advantages of having an independent firm or consultant conduct the search.
“In terms of the sensitivity around these types of positions, people who are currently employed, I would assume it’s a little more difficult talking to the board chair from a school district as opposed to somebody whose job is to keep all of this confidential. That’s part of what you are paying for. It’s not the ad,” Blanchard said. “Ultimately, it’s not the search consultant’s job to try to find the right candidate, it’s to help the board screen and find the right candidate. It’s always hard to facilitate something when you are in it, when you are part of it. There is a piece of that, that is hard to see us doing ourselves.”
Blanchard offered a third option: Delaying the search.
He said the district is in the process of implementing the statewide Student Success Act program, preparing to start its campaign for a new maintenance bond, and evaluating the district buildings for needed upgrades. Blanchard said it might be better to let Bellando finish those tasks before bringing on a new leader.
“What if we had him stay around another year, help us get through the SSA implementation phase of things and maybe take a little bit more time on our search because … this may enable us to do some of the superintendent search on our own,” Blanchard said. “We will have 18 months to walk through this process. That’s kind of my thought. It buys us a little more breathing room in terms of the selection process.”
Bellando said he would be willing to consider staying on for another school year.
“You brought me on for 10 months, and that is what I signed up for. I know much more now than I did two months ago about the school district and about the processes that are in place and what it will take,” Bellando said. “I’ve always prided myself on completing a task and actually leaving a position in a better place than when I found it. I think I have made some headway in that regard. With that said, I do agree that there are some pretty heavy lifts that need to occur in the next year, year and a half.”
Blanchard said the board has until its meeting Tuesday to make a decision, and invites feedback from staff and the public.
“We’ve really got between now and our next meeting to kind of give it some real thought,” he said.