Super Search

This search firm will help Denver find its next superintendent

PHOTO: Katie Wood/The Denver Post

The Denver school board has hired an Illinois-based educational executive search firm to help find candidates to replace Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who is stepping down in October.

The board has agreed to pay Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates $30,000 plus travel expenses for the consultants and the candidates who come to Denver, according to the contract between the firm and the district (on view below). The district will also pay $1,247 to advertise the position on three different job boards, including those for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

Most of the nearly 93,000 students in Denver Public Schools are black or Latino. Some community groups have explicitly called for the next superintendent to be an educator of color. The last three Denver superintendents have been white men.

The school board has laid out a tight timeline for choosing a new superintendent. It is aiming to accept applications until Sept. 14, and name a finalist or finalists by Oct. 15.

At a school board meeting Thursday to discuss the search, board member Jennifer Bacon said the team of consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates who would be working with the Denver district includes people of color and people who speak Spanish.

In an interview afterward, Bacon identified three consultants in particular: former California superintendents Maria Ott and David Gomez, and former Illinois superintendent Kay Giles.

Board member Lisa Flores said the board selected Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates because of its capacity to serve a large, urban school district and its “awareness, too, of handling those strengths and challenges that come with serving such a large district.”

The firm was established in 1987 and has helped conduct more than 1,200 superintendent searches. Groups critical of the district questioned the board’s choice, posting links on social media Friday to recent bad press the firm received in its home state.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates helped a suburban Chicago school district find a new superintendent, Floyd Williams, who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual harassment. Public records obtained by the local newspaper showed that Williams had faced similar allegations in the district where he’d worked before being recruited to the Chicago suburbs.

Asked about that press coverage, Bacon said the Denver board didn’t find any search firms with a 100-percent success rate. Board members questioned the firms about past failures and lessons learned, she said. “We had to understand what to do about that,” Bacon said, “and take charge of what it is we want to see done.”

Ultimately, Bacon said, it is up to the seven-member school board to thoroughly vet the candidates for the Denver superintendent job.

“This board is committed to do as deep a vetting as possible,” she said. “We are holding ourselves fully accountable throughout.”

Denver’s contract with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates includes a long list of things the firm will do, including interview each of the seven school board members about the qualifications and attributes they want the next superintendent to have, recruit candidates, and present a slate of semi-finalists. The firm will then schedule interviews with the semi-finalists and, at the district’s expense, “provide investigative background checks” on them, the contract says.

Once the school board makes a hire, the contract says the firm will hold a transition meeting between the new superintendent and the school board “regarding information learned throughout the search and next steps in the transition process.”

The contract also includes a warranty of sorts. It says that if the new superintendent leaves the position within a year for whatever reason, the firm will recruit new candidates at no additional cost. The same applies if the new superintendent leaves within two years “due to dissatisfaction” and a majority of the board members that hired the superintendent are still in place.

Read the full contract below.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.