School board approves contract for superintendent search

Mar. 27, 2014 @ 11:15 PM

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday approved a contract to hire Iowa-based Ray & Associates to conduct the district’s search for a new superintendent.

The contract was approved on a 6-1 vote, with board member Fredrick Davis voting against it.

Davis said he preferred to hire the Raleigh-based N. C. School Board Association (NCSBA) because of its ties to North Carolina.

School board member Omega Curtis Parker voted in favor of the contract even though she didn’t favor selecting Ray & Associates to conduct the search last week.

Parker said then that she wanted NCSBA to conduct the search because it is well-versed in North Carolina law and understands the educational challenges facing Durham and North Carolina.  

The board also set April 1 as a date to meet with Ray & Associates to start working on a timetable for the search, which will cost the district about $35,000.

Board Chairwoman Heidi Carter said the district likely would use money from its $19.7 million unassigned fund balance to pay for the search.

The approval of the contract came in spite of recent concerns raised about Ray & Associates’ handling of searches in Madison, Wisc., and Jackson, Miss., specifically that the firm withheld unfavorable information about candidates.

Carter said the board received a letter from the board in Madison saying that it was satisfied with the firm’s handling of its search.

And other board members said the revelations about the Madison and Mississippi searches didn’t change their minds about Ray & Associates.

“Ray & Associates has placed some of the strongest superintendents in North Carolina schools,” said Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown, who also is an NCSBA board member.

Board member Leigh Bordley said the board will demand to have all the information about the candidates brought forward as a result of the news about the Madison and Mississippi searches.

“I’m still convinced that they’re the way to go,” Bordley said.

Carter noted that the two controversial searches represent a small portion of the hundreds of successful searches conducted by Ray & Associates.