Community members encouraged to provide feedback during superintendent search

Kris McDuffy

As the Edmonds School District continues the search for its new superintendent, community members are still able to provide feedback on how best to fill the vacant position.

After it was announced in August that Edmonds Superintendent Kris McDuffy would retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year, the district hired Ray and Associates to conduct a nationwide search to fill the vacant position. McDuffy was hired as the Edmonds superintendent in 2016, having previously served as the superintendent for the Arlington School District.

Since October, the Iowa-based consulting firm has been gathering feedback from community members regarding what they want to see in a new superintendent. Parents, teachers and other district staff have been encouraged to provide feedback through a community input survey. The firm has also met with the Edmonds Education Association — the district’s teacher union.

Recently, Ray and Associates held community input sessions to get additional public feedback. This is the first time Edmonds has hired the firm to conduct a superintendent search. Per the agreement, the firm is being paid $25,000. In the past, the firm has provided consulting services for the Everett, Seattle and Snoqualmie Valley school districts.

During the meetings, held between Nov. 4-6, search associate Jim Hager detailed the superintendent search process, while directing community members to the firm’s survey on the district’s website.

The five-stage process begins by gathering information from the board of directors and developing a candidate profile using collected data. Next, Hager said the team selects applicants based on candidate profiles and present them to the board. Following the presentations, the number of applicants is narrowed to candidate finalists. Though the firm is responsible for gathering the information and selecting candidates, Hager said the decision to hire a superintendent ultimately lies with the board of directors. The board is expected to make a selection in March.

According to Hager, the process would normally be completed sooner, but it will be delayed until after the February vote on a proposed $600 million bond.

After the team’s initial meeting with the board, Hager held individual meetings with each board director to learn what qualities they wanted in a new superintendent. The feedback collected is added to data gathered from the community input survey, which is available until Nov. 18. During the consultant’s profile development phase, Hager said the firm tries to get feedback from as many community members as possible to ensure they have enough data to select the best candidates to choose from.

“It (the survey) is really important to putting that profile together,” he said.

According to Hager, the survey lists 33 qualities of “highly-effective” superintendents and asks the taker to select the top 10 qualities preferred qualities. These include level of education, desired skills, prior experience and the candidate’s goals while in the job. The survey also gives community members a chance to share what they would like the prospective candidates to know about the district.

Information gathered from the survey is used to select candidates to be presented to the board. When picking candidates based on survey criteria, Hager said priorities vary in each school district based on what the community finds important.

“It depends on the issues in the district,” he said.

So far, parents have cited improved communication between the district and parents as well as more transparency as among the top concerns. Parents felt like they have not been included enough in the district’s decision-making process, such as the decision to sign a contract with the Right at School program to provide before and after school child care.

“One of the things we take great pride in on all of this (the superintendent search process) is the transparency.” he said

Once the candidate profile development phase is complete, Hager said the district will begin to advertise the position to applicants. Promotional flyers will be distributed, and those interested in the position will be able to apply online. The application deadline is currently in early February, but some dates are subject to change depending on the board. 

During the process, Hager said candidates’ identities are kept confidential to reduce conflict of interest issues. Additionally, he said there have been issues in the past when candidate identities have been revealed, like prospective candidates being discouraged due to the level of competition.

After selecting candidates, the consultant team will be tasked with developing and finalizing interview questions and procedures with the board. Once the top candidates have been presented, Hager said the consultant team will assist in selecting finalists.

The first round of interviews is scheduled for late February and the second round is anticipated to be in early March.

–Story by Cody Sexton

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