School board enlists consulting firm to aid superintendent search

South Kitsap School District's board of directors selected Northwest Leadership Associates on Wednesday night to guide the search for a newsuperintendent.

Dave LaRose leaves his position in the district July 31 to become superintendent of California’s Culver City Unified School District.

SKSD's school board aims to have interviews with as many as three candidates for interim superintendent with the successful candidate in place 15 days later. NLA also will lead the search for a full-time superintendent, which the board aims to have in place next July 1.

Board members Patty Henderson, Chris Lemke and Greg Wall all voted NWLA as their top choice. Their counterparts, Keith Garton and Kathryn Simpson, had NWLA and McPherson & Jacobson tied. Ray and Associates and Cascade Consulting Group were the other two search firms that made presentations.

LaRose, who has served as the district's superintendent since 2008, supported the selection of NWLA. He noted that Gene Sharratt, an associate for NWLA who is the director of Washington State University's superintendent program, had numerous conversations with late SKSD deputy superintendent Kurt Wagner in the past. Sharratt is a former superintendent of the Chehalis School District.

"He knows our community and this school system," LaRose said.

Dennis Ray, who is the president and owner of NWLA, made the consulting firm's presentation to the school board. Ray has headed WSU's superintendent preparation program and served as superintendent of the Northshore and Walla Walla schools districts. He was the principal at Marcus Whitman Junior High in the early 1970s.

"There was a bunch of old barracks left from the shipyard," Ray said.

Board members seemed to like that NWLA, which is based out of Liberty Lake in Spokane County, has strong Northwest ties.

"They have a body of work in the Northwest,” Lemke said.

In its proposal to the school board, NWLA noted that it has conducted more than 160 superintendent searches during the last 11 years indistrict's ranging in size from less than 200 to more than 20,000 students. According to its documents, more than 95 percent of those superintendents "have either retired, moved to larger districts or continue to serve in the position." Only three searches led to superintendents who did not complete at least three years of service.

Locally, NWLA helped facilitate the hiring of superintendents for school districts in Bremerton (Flip Herndon in 2009) and Central Kitsap (Greg Lynch in 2004).

According to its proposal, NWLA will charge SKSD $15,800 for the services outlined in its proposal in addition to "agreed upon" reimbursement for travel.

That begins with identifying an interim superintendent. Ray said NWLA has a list of potential candidates for that position. He said his firm hopes to review as many as 10 candidates from July 23-25 and cut that list to no more than four for interviews.

Ray did not discount the possibility of interviewing former SKSD employees for the position of interim superintendent position, but said there are benefits to looking outside of the districts.

"There certainly are some advantages to someone coming from the outside without preconceived notions," he said. "Everyone starts out on an equal foot."

Ray, whose group focuses strictly on superintendent searches for schools in the Northwest, said about 50 percent of interim superintendents NWLA identifies are interesting in applying to be the full-time superintendent.

After an interim superintendent is identified, NWLA has agreed to use its resources, which include other school officials and contacts, to help locate candidates. Ray said they also recruit candidates through a confidential process and post recruitment announcements on the Internet. Once they create a file on each candidate, they report those results to the school board before screening candidates.

Both Ray and school-board members indicated the public will have an opportunity to vet the finalists before a full-time superintendent is hired.

"There will be ample opportunity for community and staff involvement in this process," Ray said.

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