Traverse City News and Events

Three Firms To Be Interviewed For Superintendent Search

By Craig Manning | Jan. 14, 2020

The Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Board of Education voted Monday to interview three potential executive search firms to lead the district’s search for a new superintendent. Six firms from across the country responded to a TCAPS request for proposals. The chosen search firm will help the TCAPS board hire a replacement for Ann Cardon, who left the district in October after two months in the superintendent role.

Out of the six proposals, TCAPS trustees selected the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB), Ray and Associates, Inc., and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates as finalists.

MASB is a nonprofit association of local and intermediate boards of education throughout the state of Michigan. The organization has worked with TCAPS in the past, including for previous superintendent searches. According to MASB’s proposal, the association “conducts more searches in Michigan than any other firm in the state or nation.”

Ray and Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with a Midwest office in St. Charles, Illinois. The firm has previously conducted numerous high-profile superintendent searches in the state of Michigan, including for districts such as Detroit Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is an education consulting firm based in Schaumburg, Illinois. The company has more than 30 years of experience conducting executive searches for educational organizations. Of the 1,400-plus searches that the firm has conducted nationwide, more than 40 were for Michigan schools or districts. In its proposal, Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates also claimed to have conducted searches for 47 of the 100 largest school districts in the country.

Trustees Erica Moon Mohr, Matt Anderson, and Jeff Leonhardt all identified MASB as their top prospect, due in part to the association’s existing knowledge of TCAPS and its quoted price for an executive search service. Of the six proposals, MASB’s came in the cheapest, with a flat fee of $14,000 plus additional expenses for travel and advertising. 

Interim Superintendent Jim Pavelka also endorsed MASB. “They’re our association,” he said. “They have a vested interest in you as a school board. They’re always available by phone, real quick. They have an attorney on staff. They gave you more references than anybody else, by far. And they’ve had a very, very successful experience in Traverse City.” Pavelka then added that MASB played a role in the search that resulted in his initial hiring as TCAPS superintendent.

MASB’s executive search proposal also includes a “Guarantee of Service” that board members found attractive. “If the candidate pool falls short of your expectations or if the superintendent placed should remain for less than one year, we will conduct the search again for no additional fee,” reads MASB’s proposal.

Beyond MASB, Ray and Associates estimated its executive search cost at $22,500, while Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates quoted TCAPS a fee of $21,500, plus extra costs for travel, candidate background checks, and numerous optional services. 

The board voted unanimously to establish a three-member committee – consisting of Moon Mohr, Anderson, and Pam Forton – who will work with Pavelka to interview the three search firms and come back with a recommendation on which firm to hire. Tentatively, the board expects that recommendation at its next meeting in two weeks.

Monday's meeting also saw board elections for the 2020 calendar year. Sue Kelly retained her role as board president, with a vote of 6-1 in favor. Moon Mohr voted no. Leonhardt was elected board vice president, while Anderson was voted in as treasurer and Forton was selected as secretary. All four also held those positions in 2019, with Leonhardt taking over the vice president role after Doris Ellery resigned in the fall.

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