Board picks firm for superintendent search

The Juneau School Board voted Tuesday night to enter into a contract with executive search firm Ray and Associates to aid the district in finding a replacement for departing Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich.


At a special board meeting, the group unanimously decided upon the Iowa and Washington state-based company, which will charge an estimated $25,000 for its services.

The Association of Alaska School Boards Superintendent Search Service was also on the table, along with two other firms. AASB helped the board locate and hire Gelbrich in 2009. According to board documents, it would have charged the district $9,000 for its services. Another firm under consideration would have charged $31,000 to $37,000. The costs in the board documents did not include candidate travel for interviews.

However, instead of going back to AASB, the board decided to go with a new firm that seemed, based on its proposal, able to dedicate more time to the Juneau superintendent search, the group agreed. Board member Lisa Worl said AASB seems to be busy with other Alaska superintendent searches and wouldn’t be able to dedicate significant time to Juneau until the fall, which would be too long to wait.

“I would like to look more seriously immediately,” she said.

“There are a lot of transitions in superintendents going on around the state and they’re very involved in those,” board member Phyllis Carlson said.

Board member Barbara Thurston agreed that although “they’re the ones we’ve used in the past and the ones we have connections with,” they’re not the right choice with the district in such a time crunch to find a new leader.

“They wear a lot of hats, AASB is a very busy organization,” she said. “I’m sure they’d be able to give us time, but this isn’t their primary job, this is one of the things they do.”

However, she said, “last time we got a good candidate,” referring to Gelbrich.

One parent in attendance spoke against hiring any firms but AASB in order to save money.

The board evaluated the firms based on success rate, experience and cost. Ray and Associates stuck out to all board members as the one that had the best balance of services provided for the most moderate cost, with a big emphasis on “working with the board to determine board goals,” Thurston said. However, she pointed out, the Ray and Associates “report mentions less community input than the other ones, but that the “responsibility to go to the public is our responsibility.”

The board agreed that it would make itself responsible for collecting community input and relaying that to the search firm.

Thurston asked Gelbrich for his opinion on choosing a firm. He said that the firm’s job is primarily to listen to the board and respond to what it wants.

“They’re an entity that listens — although they might provide you with some guidance, their first order is they listen,” he said. “They’re not just looking for a bunch of candidates, they’re looking for the right one. You only need one, but you need the right one.”

Also at the meeting, the board had a moment of silence for Juneau-Douglas High School senior Jessica Billy, who was killed in a car crash March 26.

Board president Sally Saddler and vice president Sean O’Brien were not present at the meeting but participated via teleconference.


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