On the agenda: superintendent search firm

On Wednesday, the Oakland school board might pick search firm Ray and Associates  from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to help find a permanent leader for the Oakland school district.

The firm does searches across the country and, as one might expect, hasn’t batted 1,000. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal about a new hire in 2007 that quit three days before starting her job:

The Iowa search firm hired by the Kentucky Board of Education to produce a list of candidates should have vetted Erwin more closely and targeted problems more quickly, the critics argue.

And they say board members failed to do their job, ignoring concerns raised by the media and the public over Erwin’s resume, which contained an award she hadn’t won and a presentation she never made, and her reputation for running roughshod over teachers and administrators when she was a superintendent in Texas, Arizona and Illinois.

“There is no shortage of places where it went wrong,” said Bob Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. “The board found out all sorts of things about Erwin too late. But in the end, it was the board’s responsibility to make sure that the best person for the job was named commissioner, and that didn’t happen.”

I’m sure that the OUSD board won’t make the same mistakes, and that its members will be vigilant about verifying content on the candidates’ resumes and seeking opinions from teachers and administrators at previous schools.

I’m also angling for the board to publicize the names of the candidates early in the process, to give nosy people like me (and some of you)  a chance to do some research of our own.

You can read the full agenda for Wednesday’s meeting here.

Please note: Oakland school board meetings will now begin an hour later, with closed session beginning at 5 p.m.

image from Ray and Associates’ Web site

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Judy

    As a school administrator I have heard of many search firms for Superintendents and high cabinet members. I have never heard of this group. Katie – do you know what other firms they interviewed. It is a common practice for boards to interview search firms.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yep, here’s the complete list of search firms that were considered, as posted on the agenda:

    California School Boards Association – Executive Search Services – West
    Sacramento, CA
    Cascade Consulting Group – Bellevue, Washington
    Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, Ltd – Glenview, IL
    Leadership Associates – Mission Viejo, CA
    Proact Search – Milwaukee, WI
    Ray and Associates, Inc. – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    RBL Enterprises LTD – Oakland, CA
    08-3150 – Interim Superintendent of Schools Analysis of RFPs for
    Superintendent Search
    California School Boards Association – Executive Search Services – West
    Sacramento, CA

  • http://www,mikemcmahon.info Mike McMahon

    Good luck on access to names of candidates. Here is something on the search of LAUSD in 2006.

    The challenge for a schoool board is attract enough qualified candidates to select from without compromising the current Superintendent employment status. As a result, the search and selction process can be as secretive as selecting a Pope. In August, 2006, the Los Angeles Times commented on the search process underway to replace outgoing Superintendent Ray Romer.


  • Judy

    Thanks Katie:

    I have heard of several of these. I wonder why they selected Ray and Associates. Do you know if they interviewed any of them?

  • Judy


    Thanks for sharing this link. What an eye-opener. This is even more reason to make sure that the school board is held accountable to an open selection procedure.

  • http://www.mikemcmahon.info Mike McMahon

    As a school board member who just hired a new Superintendent, (Kirsten Vital from Oakland) I would offer the following for consideration:

    If the Oakland School Board agrees to an open selection process whereby candidates names will be made available for the public I can guarantee you will be reducing the pool of applicants for the Oakland Superintendent position. The likely best and brightest candidates for the Superintendent position are doing a good to great job within their current school district. By opening themselves to scrunity by applying for a new job at Oakland they will upset the working dynamic at their current school district. A lot of candidates will not take that risk since they have no guarantee of getting the Oakland job.

    In my opinion this is the one area where the public needs to completely trust their Board of Education. One of the main job of a Board of Education is to hire and evaluate a Superintedent. Let them do it in a way that ensures the best applicant pool with a interview and selection process that is free of interest group pressure. If the next Oakland Superintendent is hired via an open selection process, Oakland risks hiring the “safe” candidate and it will be hard to hold the school board accountable for selection.

  • former hills parent


    If, however, you did open the position in Alameda, you would have heard from parents such as myself about my negative experiences with Kirten Vital’s office…from a parent’s perspective.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Why anyone would want to take on such a role is beyond me. Helping children is great, but the politics are CRAZY — and that’s just the stuff I read here. State trustee, board flexing its new muscle and a community that is NEVER satisfied. No money, less coming next year and a state ready to hand out IOUs.

    My guess, any good candidate will be scrutinizing Oakland more than the reverse.

    Open or not, Oakland needs a “special” person to take on this task.

  • http://theprincipal.blogspot.com Richard Day

    For more on Kentucky’s ugly experience with Ray & Associates, See: Kentucky School News and Commentary.


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