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In a compromise move, the Wake County school board picked a Nebraska-based search firm last week to lead the search for the next superintendent.
The board voted 7-1 Tuesday to pay $47,030 to McPherson & Jacobson to recruit applicants to replace Tony Tata, who was fired in September. The decision came after the board was deadlocked between McPherson and the N.C. School Boards Association, which offered to do the search for about $20,000.
The board initially voted 4-4 for McPherson with Chairman Keith Sutton breaking from his fellow Democrats to join Republicans in supporting the out-of-state firm. The board then deadlocked 4-4 on the School Boards Association with Sutton again siding with the Republicans as they voted no.
After a brief recess, Democratic board members who had been saying they also liked McPherson agreed to change their votes. Only board member Kevin Hill continued to vote against hiring McPherson.
I was well pleased with the proposal from McPherson & Jacobson, board member Susan Evans said. I can support that firm if it gets the process moving and provides consensus.
The board hopes to have a new superintendent in place by July 1 for the start of the 2013-14 school year. Despite the controversy over Tatas firing, board members say they expect a lot of interest from people who want to lead the nations 16th-largest school system with 150,000 students.
In the meantime, Stephen Gainey will serve as interim superintendent. Gainey, the districts assistant superintendent for human resources, has been in charge since the boards Democratic majority fired Tata.
Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Tata to be Secretary of Transportation.
Sutton told the board Tuesday that he intended to conduct this search differently. Unlike 2010, when several board members were appointed to a search committee, he said, the entire board would take part this time.
It would make for a fair process and an inclusive process, he said.
The board received four proposals after soliciting requests on the districts website and on the states purchasing website. School officials said they followed the exact same process theyd use requesting proposals for other contracts.
McPherson pointed to the various searches its done for other large districts, including Orange County in Florida, which includes Orlando; and Clark County in Nevada, which includes Las Vegas.
Republican board member John Tedesco said he was impressed with what McPherson can offer for less than half the cost of what the board paid in 2010 when it hired Heidrick & Struggles for $82,500 plus expenses. We need a firm that can attract some of the top national candidates, he said.
Sutton said he also thought McPherson might attract more national candidates. He said he was impressed with how the firm would do community outreach for input.
The other Democratic members said they thought the School Boards Association could do a good national search for a lower price.
We received a lot of pressure in recent months to curtail costs, and I believe our School Boards Association can provide a fine service at half the cost, Evans said.