Change lets School Committee go beyond lowest bid for superintendent search firm
Only after all proposals are evaluated are the bid amounts opened. The contract is awarded to the most advantageous proposal, taking into account both the evaluations and price.
The search for the next school superintendent is on track to be launched next month, with an advertisement next week soliciting recruitment firms to manage the process.
The “aggressive” schedule – as it was called repeatedly Tuesday at a special School Committee meeting – to have a new superintendent chosen before November starts with a May 7 posting of a request for proposals for an executive recruitment firm. The committee plans to approve the final RFP at its next regular meeting, May 5.
Superintendent Jeffrey Young will be leaving at the end of June 2016. He was hired in April 2009 over Carolyn Turk, who was interim superintendent and is now deputy superintendent.
Working with city purchasing agent Amy Witts, school department human resources executive director Barbara Allen and Mayor David Maher and his staff decided to do something different this time. Instead of an “invitation to bid” process used last time that commits the city to the lowest bidder, the “request for proposals” allows the committee more leeway by determining a range of “quality” and evaluation criteria, and includes a provision allowing the committee to interview firms before a final evaluation.
Maher noted that the last superintendent search – with a less rushed time schedule – resulted in only two firms submitting bids: national firms Ray & Associates, of Iowa, and ProAct Search, of Milwaukee.
The RFP to be advertised beginning May 7 will be sent to at least a dozen firms identified by Allen.
It identifies minimum quality requirements – including demonstrating experience, capacity and a record of successful placements – as well as “comparative evaluation criteria” by which the committee can assess the applicants. Only after all proposals are evaluated are the bid amounts opened. The contract is awarded to the most advantageous proposal, taking into account both the evaluations and price.
The evaluation criteria in this RFP sets goals of at least five years’ experience in successful superintendent searches; capacity to have at least five consultants on staff to perform the search; a high-quality recruitment strategy and search plan; an ability to meet the district’s search timeline; a comprehensive approach to community engagement; sample recruitment materials; and good references.
Each committee member will complete an evaluation of each applying firm, and the committee will conduct an additional composite evaluation summarizing members’ thoughts. The evaluations will be tallied by the city’s purchasing agent before opening the bid amounts.
By law, the discussions are not made public until the final decision is made.
Committee members wanted to be sure the language of the RFP reflected that they are searching for a superintendent for an urban community and a district that is diverse in culture and income. Members discussed the need for the firm to plan on many community meetings, and are hoping to see plans for reaching out to diverse populations.
Committee member Patty Nolan stressed that the recruitment strategy and community involvement piece are the most important criteria. The advertisement and accompanying brochures and materials are less important than “the ability to network and reach out to unusual candidates,” she said, noting that of the three finalists in the last hiring, none came through the search firm.
The determination of qualities wanted in the next superintendent comes after the search firm is identified, committee member Fran Cronin said.
The composition of the superintendent search committee, which will include community members, will be determined after the search firm is chosen.
This post was updated May 5, 2015, to correct a description concerning contractors’ minimum quality requirements and “comparative evaluation criteria” based on a post-publication conversation with School Committee members and city purchasing agent Amy Witts.