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School board rejects old search firm

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A March 2008 recommendation to hire a corrective superintendent, instead of a permanent one, was too poor a recommendation to justify retaining the services of the Illinois-based executive search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, according to Clayton County Board of Education Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

Anderson was one of seven board members who voted Monday to terminate the firm's services to the school system as the board begins searching for a new superintendent. Board members Mary Baker and Charlton Bivins dissented. The vote came after two, long, contentious debates on the issue.

"They didn't follow the mandate, which was to hire a permanent superintendent," Anderson said. "That was a big part of it for me. That, and him [Richard Greene, one of the firm's associates] saying nobody was interested in the position a year ago."

The school board will hold a called meeting Thursday, at 6:30 p.m., at the school system's central administration complex, to discuss how to move forward with the national search. The district is looking for someone to lead it after Superintendent John Thompson's contract expires June 30.

Thompson has expressed an interest in getting the job - again.

As the board closed the door on one firm, it allowed another to throw its hat in the ring. It heard a presentation from Glenn Brock, who was pitching the services of his Marietta-based law firm, Brock, Clay, Calhoun and Rogers, LLC.

"He contacted me on Saturday to say he heard there was a search going on, and that his firm was interested in conducting that search," Anderson said. "I gave him a chance to give his presentation."

Brock offered accreditation-related advice to the school board from December 2007 until April 2008. He said Monday his firm has conducted superintendent searches for school systems in Cobb, Fulton, Cherokee and Muscogee counties.

He told board members his firm could have a new superintendent in Clayton County by April 15, when a review team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will visit the school system. April 15 is also the date by which the district has to notify employees if it plans to not renew their contracts, according to district spokesman Charles White.

"The timeline needs to fit your needs," Brock said. "As I understand it, you have SACS coming in April, so you're looking at a very short time frame. You would be wise to have a superintendent in place by that time."

Brock said his firm would begin advertising and recruiting candidates as soon as it was hired by the board. He said a full search, conducted by his firm, would cost $7,500, which is a little less than half the price offered by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates.

Brock said he has already been contacted by seven people who knew the job was open, and were aware his firm had worked with the school system before. Four of the people are educators from Georgia, and the group consists of current superintendents, former superintendents and "people who have not yet become superintendents," the attorney said. "The right candidate is out there for you," Brock said.

Much of the meeting was spent in arguments about Brock's presentation, and how to search for a superintendent. Early in the meeting, the board added his presentation without incident. However, when the board got to the section of the agenda where Brock was to speak, tensions erupted between board members and their legal counsel, Julie Lewis. Lewis told them they would have to give any search firm that wanted to address the governing body a chance to do so, if Brock was allowed to give his presentation.

This led to roughly 30 minutes of argument about whether to allow Brock to speak. Board member Jessie Goree said she wanted to allow the presentation to go forward. Other board members expressed reservations about doing anything that could create legal problems.

"If we cannot agree to hear a presentation, then why do we have a board of education?" Goree said. "We just want to hear a presentation. We've already heard a presentation from the other company."

The tensions exploded again later in the meeting when the board moved to vote on Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. Board member Mary Baker suggested postponing the issue because of the earlier arguments, but later rescinded her motion, after lengthy debate.

"I don't want to get into a legal battle, if we open that can of worms," she said.