Board Seeking Boss: First Steps in a Superintendent Search
(This was submitted to the Terre Haute Tribune Star and the West Vigo Times February 7, 2023.)
The hiring and management of the superintendent is the most important work any School Board undertakes. There is a clear line of authority from Board to Superintendent, and from Superintendent to the rest of the administration, faculty, and staff.
It’s our job as Vigo County School Corporation’s Board to manage the boss – but first we must recruit, vet, and hire the right boss. Last week, we took a major step forward in the process of finding that person. We engaged the professional services of the Indiana School Board Association (ISBA) after hearing presentations and receiving proposals from five different search firms – all in public session.
We did this intentionally, understanding that we need to justify this to our community.
The five groups included the University Search team, ISBA, and three national headhunters that specialize in school superintendent searches. These national firms, while clearly competent and professional, were extremely costly. As Board Member Carey LaBella observed, the fees they presented to us were roughly equal to the annual income of some people in our community, and that would be difficult to justify.
The remaining choices were strong, but ultimately the services and options provided by the Indianapolis-based ISBA won the approval of a majority of the Board, particularly by virtue of their core work in service to school boards, knowledge of Indiana public education law, candidate software service, and best practices in vetting applicants. They presented us with a reasonable fee of $3,500, which will come from an established line item within the VCSC HR department budget.
For the next three to four months, we will work with ISBA to manage an intense process of garnering community input, developing an application, advertising, preparing for effective interviews, on-site visits, public meetings, and I expect a lot of phone calls, emails, and questions.
We must get this right. With just one member who has ever been through this process before, it is critical that the Board engages the professional support we need to be effective and efficient.
When we present our choice, the community must know we did our homework and did it well. That is why we will continue to do as much of this work as possible in public, why we will be out and engaged and talking to people throughout this process, and why we are getting the professional help we need to show the community we are taking this seriously and working diligently.
See the board meeting here: