Five superintendent search firms are scheduled to come to Macon on Tuesday to pitch their proposals for finding the school system’s next leader.
The companies, two from Georgia and three from the Midwest, charge from $15,000 to $30,000 to advertise and recruit high-quality job candidates willing to come to Bibb County.
School board President Gary Bechtel said board members hope to select a search firm by June 1, and then, throughout the summer, hold a dozen or so community meetings to solicit input on the qualities needed in a new superintendent.
Using that input could help land a new leader by December, he said.
“You have to put one foot in front of the other, but I think this is the first real step” in the search, he said.
The search firms under consideration are: the Georgia School Boards Association; McPherson & Jacobson in Omaha, Neb.; Proact in Wilmette, Ill.; Ray and Associates Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Brock Clay in Marietta.
In February, the school board negotiated a $198,000 settlement to buy out the contract of former Superintendent Sharon Patterson 17 months early. Patterson, who led the system for a decade, remains under a state ethics investigation to determine whether she failed to report alleged educator misconduct to the state’s Professional Standards Commission.
The school board allocated $50,000 from the system’s general fund to help with the superintendent search. When the representatives visit, the board will consider a list of searches that each firm has conducted in the past five years, their experience working with urban school districts, their fees, their plans to work with the community to help select a quality superintendent, as well as other criteria.
Using a search firm is more likely to generate higher-level candidates drawn from a wider net, rather than the system conducting its own search, Bechtel said, and that’s the best option for Bibb.
Having had a superintendent at the helm for a decade may have kept some potential leaders from seeking high-level administrative posts in the Bibb County school office, since they saw a slim chance for promotion, he said.
“We hope that will be one of the attributes we find in this superintendent,” Bechtel said. Urban superintendents generally stay on the job three to five years, so board members hope the next leader can begin to groom possible successors.
Several community groups already have volunteered to help in the superintendent search, including the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, 100 Black Men and Education First, which may help lead community focus groups, he said.
“It’s important to find someone who can catapult us into excellence, and I think the school board is going about it the right way,” said Julie Moore, executive director of Education First, a nonprofit that helps promote public education.
The Bibb County school system, she said, should be able to draw several top leaders to the school district, which has high poverty rates, often high turnover and test scores that have run lower than state averages.
“I do think we will be able to find someone who will see bad publicity as a challenge to take on,” Moore said. “We know we have good teachers in place, a good community and students who could excel. I think we are a good size, in a good position in the state and in a lot of ways at the bottom of the curve, so we do have access to some dollars that other systems may not have” that will be appealing to potential superintendents.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.