School board OKs search firm, revises qualifications for superintendent

Posted June 15, 2010 10:28 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2010 7:52 a.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— After debate over how much money should be spent to find the next leader of the state's largest school district, the Wake County Board of Education approved a recommendation that a Chicago-based firm should conduct the search.

Board members voted 5-4 in favor of the hire of Heidrick & Struggles at an estimated cost of $82,500 to find a replacement for outgoing superintendent Del Burns. The group was among a number of options the board's Superintendent Search Committee considered for the job.

Heidrick & Struggles initially bid $110,000 for the search but later renegotiated. The school system will also pay expenses related to the search as part of the contract.

School board member Carolyn Morrison objected to hiring Heidrick, saying the committee ignored a more prudent bid from the North Carolina School Board Association, which would have saved $75,000 and costs associated with travel, since the group is local.

The money saved could be used elsewhere in the school budget – facing a $20 million shortfall – to defray other budget cuts, she said.

In another 5-4 vote, the board also changed the job qualifications for superintendent, removing stipulations that he or she hold an earned doctorate and have had three years of education experience in the past 10 years.

Debra Goldman, who chairs the Superintendent Search Committee, said the purpose for the change is to include as many qualified and potential candidates as possible.

"The worst thing that can happen is that we have several wonderful candidates to pick from," she said.

Among other business, the board also approved the acquisition of property for the H-6 high school project, which will be the district's largest high school.

The board unanimously approved moving forward with plans to buy 143 acres of land at the intersection of Rolesville and Quarry roads, northeast of Raleigh.

School staff said that appraisal estimates of about $30,000 per acre put the cost at about $4 million less than other locations. The project could also potentially open in 2013 – a year earlier than expected.

The board also approved to ending its membership with the North Carolina School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association. It did vote to renew its membership with the Southern Association of Colleges.