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SKSD screens applicants for consultant contract

The South Kitsap School District held interviews Wednesday evening with three consultants vying to steer a search for a new superintendent.

Superintendent Bev Cheney announced earlier this year that she will be resigning at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

The district interviewed representatives from the Cascade Consulting Group, Northwest Leadership Associates and McPherson and Jackson. Two of the agencies have been operating in the Northwest for several years, while McPherson and Jackson are new to the area, coming from Omaha, Neb.

Each had an opportunity to present themselves and answer questions from the board:

• Representing the Cascade Consulting Group, Lee Pasquarella focused on the need for transparency in this process.

“The process itself needs to be authentic and it needs to be transparent,” he said, “so that we say what we do and we do what we say.”

He discussed that if the board is leaning toward hiring from within the district or toward outside the district, it should indicate that early to the public.

The group boasted of its 200 previous superintendent placements in Washington state over the last several years.

Pasquarella works out of a home-office in Bellevue.

• Dennis Ray of Northwest Leadership Associates was the most local of all the candidates, having once served as a principal at Marcus Whitman Junior High in the 1970s.

He was encouraged by the district’s Web site, which he said was one of the most comprehensive he’s seen in the state. He suggested it be used as part of the process when seeking input from the community. His organization does online surveys from community members as part of the process.

He argued for his firms strength within the state of Washington.

“We know the state, we know the area,” he said. “I think we know the Northwest far better than anyone you will talk to.”

• Michael Boring from McPherson and Jackson flew out from Omaha, Neb., for this meeting, but stressed the group’s ability to work in Washington.

They emphasized the heavy amount of detailed background research and the five-phased search process and follow up.

He explained that each applicant would provide references, and they would ask each reference for two more reference for a thorough background check.

The five-phase search process involves following up with the selected superintendent for one year after the hire, and going over a list of goals to be accomplished in that time.

Boring was the only of the three to provide a clear answer to board member Kathryn Simpson’s question of weaknesses. They admitted that being from Omaha they may seem awfully far away, but emphasized their skill in learning new areas.

“We’ve been around long enough that we’ve learned that if we’re weak at something we’d better get stronger at it,” he said.

All three representatives talked about searching for a large pool of candidates including those who are not necessarily searching for a position. They believe a better candidate can be found by pitching the position to those who are employed in good positions but are open to trying out a new opportunity.

The district did not make any decisions that evening, but retired to executive session to discuss the qualifications of each firm.

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