Cary, N.C. — Nearly four months after firing Tony Tata, the Wake County Board of Education on Tuesday took the first step toward finding a new superintendent to lead North Carolina's biggest school district by hiring a search firm.
The board approved a motion to hire Omaha, Neb.-based McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, a move that will cost the school system about $45,000. Details of the firm's bid to lead the search were not made available Tuesday.
The decision came after two deadlocked votes in which the board was divided 4-4 between McPherson & Jacobson and the North Carolina School Board Association, which offered services ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. There was no deciding fifth vote since Chris Malone, who won a seat in the state House of Representatives, left the school board last month.
Board members supporting McPherson & Jacobson said the firm would recruit high quality candidates from across the U.S. Supporters of the School Board Association, however, said the local group pledged to launch a national search for about half the cost.
In 2011, the district spent $82,000 and about six months working with the search firm that eventually found Tata.
If the timeline is similar with this search, Wake schools could be hiring a new leader shortly before its newly adopted student assignment plan takes effect at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
During Tuesday afternoon's work session, school board members clashed over how the search firms were contacted. Debra Goldman charged that certain board members reached out to firms behind closed doors.
"The board members ourselves were not aware," Goldman said. "The public was not aware."
Jim Martin said that wasn't true.
"Saying you did not know about it is an admission that you were not paying attention," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the school board scheduled Feb. 5 to interview candidates looking to fill the seat left vacant by former board member Chris Malone.
Malone represented District 1 in northeast Wake County from 2009 until December, when he resigned after being elected to the state House of Representatives.
The board hopes a replacement can be sworn in at its Feb. 19 board meeting. He or she will carry out the remainder of Malone's term, which expires in December.
Eight people have applied for the post: Thomas Benton, Ben Clapsaddle, Wendy Ford, Hilda McCullers, David Menaker, Donald Mial, H. Wade Minter and Shinica Thomas. Details about each applicant is posted on the Wake County Public School System's website.