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CCSD board to decide whether to DIY or hire consultant in superintendent search

Updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 5:40 p.m.

With an interim superintendent chosen, the Clark County School Board is now looking to hire a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Dwight Jones, who stepped down last week.

In addition to setting the district's general policy, the School Board has the power to hire, fire and evaluate the superintendent. The board, which is meeting Thursday in special session, appointed longtime district administrator Pat Skorkowsky as interim superintendent. Now the board is now embarking on what could be a monthslong process to find the next permanent superintendent of the nation's fifth-largest school district.

The School Board has several options: It could look for and appoint a permanent superintendent immediately, or hire a firm or consultant to conduct a local, national or international search for a superintendent.

The board typically has hired a search firm or consultants to conduct its superintendent search, a process that usually takes between eight and nine months to complete. Costs of past superintendent searches have included consultant fees, travel expenses, advertising and other expenses.

In 2005, the district paid $75,000 to local consultants Bob McCord and Kathy Harney to identify Walt Rulffes over a period of nine months.

In 2010, the district paid $60,000 to the McPherson and Jacobson search firm of Omaha, Neb., to find Jones over a period of eight months.

School Board President Carolyn Edwards said she had received multiple offers from private groups to raise donations to fund a superintendent search firm or consultants, should board members choose to go that route. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 6,000 businesses, is open to contributing for the search, said Cara Roberts, the chamber’s communications director.

However, School Board and some community members seemed cautious about using outside funds to look for a permanent superintendent. Edwards said if the board decided to hire a search firm, she would like to see caps on the number of donors and donations an outside group could solicit to prevent "potential influence" over the hiring process.

How the board proceeds will determine how quickly Jones’ replacement begins work.

If the board starts the search this summer, the district likely would negotiate with a previously selected search firm. A new superintendent could theoretically be chosen and begin working by the fall.

If the board chooses to start the search later, the district would conduct a request for proposal for a search firm and conduct community meetings to seek public input before embarking on the search process. The new superintendent would start in the winter or even next summer for the 2014-15 school year.

If the School Board chose to conduct its own search, there is another set of concerns members would need to consider, district staff said.

Because potential superintendent candidates would be submitting job applications directly to the district, their documents would be largely public. That may inhibit current superintendents in other urban districts from applying for the Clark County position, staff said.

Community members attending Thursday’s meeting seemed split on whether the School Board should conduct a local or national search for its next superintendent.

Some argued for a local candidate who may be more loyal to the district. Others called for an outside candidate who could, perhaps, think outside of the box to raise student achievement.

School Board members were adamant however, that the reform efforts Jones began would continue under the next superintendent.

"I believe we are in a very different place than we were two years ago. I believe that's because of the work that Superintendent Jones began," Edwards said. "We're in the middle of that work. Our new superintendent needs to continue that work.

"There doesn't need to be a slowdown," she continued. "There doesn't need to be a blip."

CORRECTION: This version corrects the number of businesses the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce represents. | (March 15, 2013)

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