Lindbergh board meets with consulting firm for superintendent search

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh Board of Education members met Saturday morning with representatives of Ray and Associates to discuss the district’s upcoming search for a new superintendent.

The Board of Education voted unanimously in February to approve a contract with Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to assist in the search for a new superintendent to replace Jim Sandfort, who is retiring at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. The final cost for the search firm’s services will be $15,000, with a maximum of $6,000 for reimbursed expenses.

Ray and Associates was selected from four consulting firms that were interviewed in December by the Board of Education. The board had voted in January to select Ray and Associates contingent on the successful negotiation of a contract.

During Saturday’s special meeting, Ray and Associates was represented by Gary Ray, president; Tom Morgan, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Pattonville School District; Tom Cummings, superintendent of the North Kansas City School District; and Ryan Ray, an associate for the firm.

Board members and Ray and Associates representatives discussed a number of topics related to the search, including developing a timeline, obtaining input for developing a superintendent profile and establishing the salary and benefits for the post.

No action was taken by the board. Board member Bob Bader was absent.

During the discussion of the timeline, board members indicated they’d like to have a new superintendent selected and approve a contract with that person no later than February or March.

Board members also discussed obtaining input in developing a superintendent profile from a variety of sources, including parents, booster organizations, civic groups, elected officials, alumni/retired teachers, classified employees, registered voters, certified employees and the district’s leadership team over a two-day period — tentatively May 9 and May 10. Information gathered will be used to develop a leadership profile of characteristics desired in a new superintendent.

Board President Mark Rudoff advocated having two periods for residents to provide their input — 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 9.

“What I think is important is that we allow what’s perceived by the public, and not in a negative way, but when they look at this, they say: ‘I can go in and I can walk up and I can tell them what I think’ … When people look at it, it’s not viewed as a closed process that somebody can’t give their input. I want them to feel like they can come up and they can provide their input of the preferred profile of the superintendent of Lindbergh schools,” he said.

Board Treasurer Katie Wesselschmidt said, “… I just think it’s important that we provide as many venues as possible. I think that when we contact the groups, they should know that they can also send written information in, they can also go on the Web site. As we advertise this, I think it’s important to advertise every avenue that we make available every time we advertise …”

The board and Gary Ray also discussed salary and benefits for the post. For the current school year, Sandfort’s salary is $187,500. He also receives additional benefits, including paid family insurance and a monthly travel allowance.

Ray recommended advertising a specific salary range plus a comprehensive benefits package for the post.

“… But then we put: The final salary will be determined based upon the candidate’s experience and meeting the board’s profile, which gives us a little wiggle room to go down or whatever we want to do. You can decide whether they’re actually worth that money or not, but we need to put ‘in the range of,”’ he said. “And so I’ve found that to be the best way that attracts candidates because candidates are pretty smart in today’s market. They know it’s a candidate’s market. They know what the current person’s making. They know what other people around are making … They’ll know whether the board’s trying to low ball the job or not …”

Rudoff said, “… What you’re saying is that when it comes time in hiring a superintendent, they are aware of what other superintendents in other districts in the area are making?”

Ray said, “Right — and the market.”

Rudoff continued, “And they know what the market is … This has been a subject of much, much — … not to say controversy, but certainly discussion — and the board over the past four to five years has aggressively moved the superintendent’s salary to be competitive with what the other school districts were offering, especially when you consider that we pay for performance …

“So what we can say is there are other benchmark districts to which we try to track our salaries, not only from the superintendent, but assistant superintendents, building principals, our teachers. We don’t want to be the highest. We certainly don’t want to be the lowest, but we want to be competitive for the area …,” he said.

Ray later said, “The recommendation will be based upon just basically what you’ve said … You have to have the salary where you are competitive in the market, and remember that the salary we’re looking at is for the 2008-’09 year. So we cannot only look at what they’re currently making now because whoever’s sitting in those various seats around the country and the area, they’re going to get something for next year, which is for 2007-2008. So you’ve got to say this is where they’re at now, this is where they’re going to be next year and the market that we are going to be competing is another year out, you see. So you’ve got where they’re out now, you’ve got two bumps on the salary where they’re going to be at. So that’s our real market right there …”

Noting the board is conducting a national search for a new superintendent, Ray said, “So you have your regional market and you have your national market that you have to look at. Sometimes those are very close and sometimes they’re a little bit out of balance. What we will do is bring a recommendation to you and say: ‘Here’s kind of where we think it needs to be at (to be) competitive. What you do not want to do is be the training ground for one of these deals where somebody brings in somebody at a low or fairly low (salary). They get the job and in two years they’re gone because they’re behind in the market. You don’t want to do that.”

Regarding establishing the salary range, Ray later said, “So that’s really critical and I know it’s a tough piece when you’re paying public dollars for salaries, but you do get what you pay for usually in those situations … You need to put the salary at what the market will attract and then you can decide whether they’re worth the dollars, but give yourself an opportunity to see what the market is out there and then you can decide in the final analysis …”