Friday, September 08, 2006

Using Education Headhunters: A Smart Move?

An Indiana school district is paying a "headhunter" $10,000 to find a principal that's a good "fit" for the district's high school:
Southwest Allen County Schools is spending more than $10,000 to employ a search firm to find a new principal for Homestead High School.

Principal Dianne Moake announced in April she would retire as principal and possibly transfer to another administrative position – if one is open – in the district as soon as SACS found her replacement. After her announcement, district officials interviewed seven or eight candidates for the position but couldn’t find someone they were happy with.

“The committee just couldn’t agree that it was a right fit for Homestead,” Assistant Superintendent Nancy Carey said. “So many of them brought so many strong things, but it wasn’t the complete picture.”

So the district decided to call in reinforcements to help find a qualified candidate to lead the 2,000-student school. It hired BWP Associates of Houston to conduct a nationwide search for a new principal. It’s the same search firm the district employed when it hired current Superintendent Brian Smith.

“I personally have a lot of confidence in them,” Carey said.

Two representatives from the search firm will visit Homestead on Monday to meet with different groups to learn what they want in a new principal.

The groups include central office administration, Moake, counselors, individual meetings with each of the five school board members, high school department chairs and students, among others.

For those who wish to provide input to the search firm representatives, a community meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Homestead.

The firm will then seek out candidates across the country who would be a good fit, Carey said. It will conduct preliminary interviews with the candidates and then narrow it to about five or six to present to the board, Smith said.

“We just want to get the right fit for our school community, and they know a lot of people and they have a lot of connections with school districts. That’s their job,” Carey said.

School officials will then conduct more in-depth interviews with the candidates.

The money to pay for the search firm is coming out of the district’s general fund and is budgeted under professional services, which is often used to pay curriculum and other consultants, said Jim Coplen, business manager.

Smith said the district is using the search firm because it is difficult to find a qualified principal. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with being a high school principal and the job is almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Smith said.

“That’s probably one of the most difficult to fill in a school district,” Smith said. “They have something every night and every weekend.”

Peter Reed, associate director of professional development services for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said it is not uncommon for a school district with a high school as large as Homestead to employ a search firm to find a principal. Reed agrees with Smith that it’s not only hard to find someone qualified, it’s hard to find someone, period.

“The supply of qualified, skilled principals out there is dwindling,” Reed said. “We haven’t done a good job of succession planning.”

More principals are retiring every year as the baby boomer generation gets older, Reed said. There’s also a difference between having a certificate that says someone is qualified to be a principal and actually being qualified, he said.
I guess if they can find a person who is the right "fit," $10,000 might not be too high a price to pay...

On the other hand, I wonder if the school board could have attracted a large number of high-caliber applicants by adding that $10,000 to the principal's base salary?
See our latest EduPosts.