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Firm ponders role in
superintendent search

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Richard Greene, an associate of the Illinois-based executive search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, said he was surprised to learn the Clayton County School Board plans another national search for a superintendent.

The most recent search authorized by the school district is in a status of indefinite postponement.

Greene's firm was paid about $40,000 to find a replacement for Dr. Barbara Pulliam when she resigned in July, 2007. That search was almost completed when members of the previous school board found themselves mired in controversy, and elections, and Greene recommended the hiring of a "corrective superintendent" until everything was settled. John Thompson was chosen, but his contract expires June 30.

Greene said he has not had any contact with board members in nearly a year. "None at all," he said. "A good search is going to cost somewhere between $50,000, and $60,000," he said.

No decision has been made about who will conduct the new search. The board, all new members, will meet on Saturday to receive training on how to handle a search for a superintendent. The training will be provided by the Georgia School Boards Association.

Having a permanent superintendent was one of the mandates for regaining accreditation set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The agency will send a team to the district in April to review its progress. During that visit, the review team will look to see if the district has a plan to hire a new school chief, and if the board is following the plan.

Under the initial plan, the board would have contacted Greene to begin accepting applications again around September 2008, according to the search leader. He then would have completed the original process, and brought candidates to the board this month.

"We had completed everything except bring them [the school board] a slate of candidates," said Greene. Greene also said the district may be able to save some money on a search, if the board decides to use his firm again. "I wouldn't see the total need to start the search over from scratch," he said.

The search was postponed by the previous board when Greene suggested that a temporary, corrective superintendent would be better, since several seats on the board were up for election last year. "It would be nice for an incoming superintendent, if the board that hired him was the same board that was in place when he started working for the district," Green said then. As a result, the board ended up hiring Thompson in late April of 2008.

Greene said his firm keeps the information it gathers from each search it conducts. The chief piece of information is the public feedback, which was gathered through surveys.

"[If it decides to resume the previous search], the board would have to decide whether or not it wants to use that survey," said Greene. "Using the information we gathered, the old board developed it's criteria for a superintendent. We would have to discuss with the board whether or not they wanted to continue using that criteria."

Greene said the ideal superintendent for Clayton County is someone who embraces adversity. "They've got to attract someone who wants to face a challenge, and the board will have to be willing to give that person the package he is asking for," Greene added.

The one issue which Greene refused to speculate on was how much money Clayton County would have to pay a new superintendent. Thompson has an annual base salary of $285,000, but he also gets several benefits, including health coverage, and a $2,000 per month housing allowance.

"There's all kinds of ways to divvy up a package," said Greene. "Some superintendents may want a higher salary, but fewer benefits, while others may want less salary and more benefits ... The package that most large districts are giving superintendents right now is $300,000. That's not just the salary. That's the salary and the benefits."

Thompson has expressed an interest in the position, but after the board decided to do a national search, he said he will discuss it with his wife.

When Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson was asked Monday if Thompson is a leading candidate for the position, her only response was, "You could say he has the experience and expertise."