Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School Board voted 4 to 1 Monday night to find a consulting firm to aid in the search for a new superintendent.
The board's decision comes almost four months after buying out the contract of former Superintendent Donna Howell, and two months after appointing Sandra Smyser as interim superintendent.
Smyser dismissed herself from the discussion and left the meeting - due to her "possible opportunity" to apply for the position - as the board discussed how to proceed with the superintendent search. The board is faced with hiring a consultant or conducting the search internally.
"I appreciate her doing that and I hope she is one of our applicants," said board member Laura Anderson, who voted to hire a search firm.
Board member Denise Connelly, the board's lone dissenter on looking for a consultant, said she is concerned that qualified candidates may be overlooked because search firms typically require a fee for candidates to be evaluated.
"I think my concern is that if superintendent personnel do not pay the fee to the company, whether they are able and qualified and a good choice, that we may never see them," she said.
Anderson responded that the board should clarify to search firms that they can't declare a fee for candidates.
Board member John DeVincentis said he voted to proceed with looking for a search firm despite reservations about a possible candidate fee and concerns that the firms recycle old candidate databases.
"So we hire them and pay them about $20,000 and they pull out a random list of people out of a database, but how do they pull out those names?" he said. Board member Lisa Brown said firms may charge as little as $10,000.
"Is it just the same people getting pulled over and over?" DeVincentis said. "I don't know what the (choices) are, but it seems from my experience you see the same names showing up in this district and that district."
The district's assistant to the superintendent, Anne Muhme, said the district is capable of conducting the search internally, but she advised hiring a search firm.
"I think, especially since Dr. Smyser is interested in applying, we need to be one step removed from the process," she said.
"We can have that separation," Connelly said. "We did a much more abbreviated version of that with the interim superintendent search, and we weren't swayed by committees we had before."
Anderson added that even if the district could separate itself from the process, the three new board members - Anderson, Brown and Robin Crossan - have too much on their hands getting up to speed as board members.
"We have so many loose ends going on right now, and the three of us have a lot of training we need that we are going to have our hands full," she said. "I would like to rely on the experts."
Connelly noted the expense of hiring consultants also is an issue.
"We are being criticized for expenditures : and we are talking about $10,000 for something we have already gone through when we did it with the abbreviated model for the interim superintendent," she said.
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