Durham board likely to interview four search firms

Mar. 04, 2014 @ 10:43 PM

The Durham Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday narrowed the list of potential superintendent search firms to four.

Board members voted 5-2 during a committee meeting to consider McPherson & Jacobson LLC of Omaha, Neb., Ray and Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Ia., BWP & Associates of Libertyville, Ill. and the Raleigh-based North Carolina School Board Association.

They must finalize the vote in a special meeting next week. If confirmed, it means the board won’t invite PROACT Search of Wilmette, Ill., to town for an interview.

The board swayed between giving the job to Ray and Associates or School Board Association, which conducted the district’s last superintendent’s search and would charge $15,000 to do the job, the lowest amount of all five search firms.

Board member Fredrick Davis made a motion to award the contract to the association, which failed in a 5-2 vote.

A motion by board member Nancy Cox to slow the process until January also failed.

Cox argued that the search process should wait because of the possibility of three board seats up for election in May.

She also said there won’t be time to for intense community engagement some residents are demanding if the board rushes the process.

Cox added that these are busy times for the board because of pressures ranging from mandates from the state to the possibility of six new charter schools opening.

“There’s just a lot on our plate and I don’t personally feel like I can give this process my best,” Cox said.

Davis said the board had enough information in the packages it received from the firms to award the search contract.

“We don’t have time for all of this flip-flopping,” Davis said, calling the board indecisive. “Let’s make the decision that we’re going to have a search process.”

Board Chair Heidi Carter countered that the board isn’t being indecisive, it’s just “not ready” to award the contract.

Most board members have said that there is no need to rush the process because the school district is in good hands with Interim Superintendent Hugh Osteen and Stacey Wilson-Norman, deputy superintendent for academics.

Some board members referenced an offer from the “business community” to pay for the superintendent search. But others seemed cool to the idea because it might give the appearance that the people paying for the search will have too much influence on the selection process.

In other business Monday, the board called an emergency meeting to forgive the three recent school days children missed due to inclement weather.

The move protects the approaching spring break, something teachers, parents and students lobbied the board to do.  

The district is allowed to forgive the missed days because it has selected the state option to calculate instructional time in hours and is on track to exceed the minimum of 1,025 instructional hours required.