Steamboat Springs After spending a day interviewing superintendent search firm candidates, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted, 3-2, on Monday to hire the Colorado Association of School Boards.
The School Board chose CASB, which submitted the low bid of $8,000, plus expenses, over Ray & Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Neb.
"CASB is the only group that came here today that I don't have any questions about what services will be provided to us," said board member Lisa Brown, who along with board members Denise Connelly and John DeVincentis voted to hire CASB.
Brown cited the School Board's previous relationship with CASB, through policy governance training and a December CASB conference on the Front Range, as factors in her decision.
"Cost is a reason, but I also don't have to educate them very much on who we are. : We already have a relationship with them," she said. "Of all the search firms we interviewed today, CASB seemed to have the highest level of enthusiasm for this."
The School Board pays annual dues to CASB for information, services and training programs. In August, Bob Cito, the director of CASB's superintendent search division, forwarded to the School Board a list of potential interim superintendent candidates, including the board's eventual choice, Sandra Smyser.
Smyser has not formally applied for the full-time superintendent position, but she previously indicated she would do so.
Anne Muhme, the district's assistant to the superintendent, supported Ray & Associates and McPherson & Jacobson. Ray & Associates was hired in 2003 to conduct the search that led the district to former superintendent Donna Howell. The search cost $14,000. The firm's bid this time around was $16,000, plus expenses, while McPherson & Jacobson submitted a $9,000 bid, plus expenses.
"The last time we used (Ray & Associates), they took care of everything," Muhme said. "From beginning to end, it was low impact on staff."
Board member Laura Anderson, who moved to hire McPherson & Jacobson - a motion seconded by board President Robin Crossan - said CASB appears to be passive in recruiting candidates, and she said the firm would not provide the School Board with enough guidance.
"I feel, as a new board member on a fairly new School Board, I need more guidance through this process than CASB can offer," Anderson said. "CASB seemed passive and very institutionalized. We may get applicants, but will we get qualified applicants?"
Crossan echoed Anderson's sentiment that board members need more help in the superintendent selection search than CASB can provide.
"We are too new of a board ... none of us have been through this process before," she said.
"The other two groups, I got the feeling, would be more active in finding the right candidates," Anderson added.
The School Board plans to meet with CASB officials Friday for an initial work session on developing a search timeline, identifying the board's priorities in a new superintendent, discussing staff and community involvement and setting compensation parameters.
According to the firm's proposal, CASB officials will conduct focus groups, develop a promotional brochure, advertise the superintendent position, manage and screen applicants, and create a first-year performance plan.
Although board members didn't reach a unanimous choice in a search firm, they all conceded public input would be considered in selecting superintendent finalists.
"This is the most important decision we are going to make as a board," Anderson said. "Given our situation in the last year, we need to do some community outreach, and we will involve the community in this process."