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Board Begins Hunt for Superintendent Search Firm

Members aim to hire consultant by October.

The Fairfax County School Board took its first step toward hiring a new superintendent this week, moving forward with a formal solicitation for a search consultant.

Superintendent Jack Dale, who was hired in 2004,

To hire a superintendent by the end of April, the preference of some board members who spoke at a Monday work session, would be "aggressive" while following a formal process, said Tony Cross, director of procurement services.

The board would have to hire a consultant no later than October, Cross said.

In an informal solicitation process, the board would accept bids from at least four vendors, Cross said, a smaller pool that would allow it to focus on the small group of consultants qualified to handle a search for one of the country’s largest school systems — among them, Hazard, Young and Attea Associates, the firm that found both Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr in 2011 and Dale in 2004.

The board could receive anywhere from six to 10 or more proposals in a formal process, and some board members said at a work session Monday they felt the pool will help "cast the net wider" to ensure it finds the right consultants to guide the system through a process it has been through once in the past decade.

The search will also be the first for eight of the board's 12 members. Board Chair Janie Strauss (Dranesville), Ilryong Moon (At-large), Kathy Smith (Sully) and Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon) were on the board when it hired Dale to replace Daniel A. Domenech; Strauss and Moon were also on the board that hired the superintendent before him.

Elizabeth Shultz (Springfield) said she felt a formal process would also offer confidence to residents who, after the 2004 search for Dale, said they felt excluded and unheard.

Many of those residents When asked on the campaign trail this fall, several members now on the board said they would make the upcoming search and selection process more open and inclusive.

"I think this is less about us shouldering the burden of reading five or 10 more proposals and more about the transparency to the public and I think the public will well reward us for being accountable," she said.

Cross said it will take up to 120 days to get a consultant on board.

Earlier this year, Fairfax board members for guidance, gaining insight into the eight-month search that

Montgomery County Public Schools spent about three months selecting a search firm; two months collecting input for a "leadership profile" for the firm to use to pool a slate of candidates; and six weeks for the selection process, from first interview to final appointment.

The Fairfax board said it preferred the structure of Montgomery's request for proposal and search to the one it used to find Dale in 2004.

The board's first task will be creating a clearer picture of what it wants from the search firm, said Strauss, a process Cross estimated would take about two weeks.

That includes how much or little the board wants the firm to be involved, how many board members will be involved and what kind of public input process it is looking for, among other elements the board needs to resolve in the coming weeks, Storck said. 

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