The New Albany-Plain Local school board plans to choose between two consulting firms to search for the district's next leader.

The New Albany-Plain Local school board plans to choose between two consulting firms to search for the district's next leader.

Members heard presentations from School Exec Connect of Highland Park, Ill., and SearchConsultants of Columbus at a meeting Monday, June 21.

Dave Clough and Dave Cottrell of School Exec Connect said they both are retired superintendents and have worked in the field of education for most of their lives.

The company, which employs 38, was founded six years ago and focuses on searches for educational executives.

Clough said the company has performed more than 150 searches throughout the country, and it has only had one superintendent it placed not be renewed by a school district. Two left districts for other positions and one retired.

If School Exec Connect were to be contracted, its first step would be meeting with the board to set a timeline for the search process.

It then would meet with community members and conduct research about what the community would like to see in a leader. They possibly would use a community survey.

"We would be coming into your district doing focus groups; one we would like to do would be with the school board," Clough said. "Probably about a month into the search, depending on when we would start, we would actually bring to you a suggested profile we should be looking for in a new superintendent."

He said that profile would guide the recruitment and interview process.

"From that, we generally would develop anywhere between eight and 12 characteristics we believe you are looking for in your new superintendent," Clough said. "That is what Dave and I use as we are recruiting candidates, as we are screening candidates and as we do our consultant interviews of the candidates. We actually base our questions that we ask the candidates off that profile for New Albany."

After Clough and Cottrell complete their candidate screenings, they would invite five or six candidates to the district for an extensive interview process. The board then would select three finalists.

Fees for their services would be $19,500, with an additional $4,000 for advertising fees and up to $5,500 in travel and other out-of-pocket expenses.

If their search was not successful, they said they would complete another search at no cost to the district.

"Our first priority is to our students in the country and in the districts we serve," Clough said. "All of us were educators or are educators, and one of the things I think is unique is we are a group of people who all really did put students first in our job. Our second is to the school board that we contract and work with."

Cindy Hilsheimer, managing principal of SearchConsultants, said her firm has completed over 600 searches in the company's 10-year history.

Hilsheimer, a New Albany resident, said she and four of her employees would be working on the New Albany search if they were selected. She said their process takes about four months.

"We offer to step in now and work with you to identify the entire landscape of stakeholders," she said. "Who is going to be on the search committee and the size of the search committee."

She said the search committee, which could range from four to 20 members, would be the point of contact between her firm and the district.

Hilsheimer said her firm is set apart from others because it has worked on a variety of different kinds of searches and has a vast database of contacts and resources. She said it also has a trained research department.

"We've refined our process over the years," she said. "It's very research based. ... This is something we love to do. We enjoy talking to a lot of people and collecting input."

She said the firm would call community members to get feedback about their wants and needs in a school leader and would hold focus groups. She said the board could design the process.

SearchConsultants' steps are similar to School Exec Connect. SearchConsultants would develop a working profile and actively recruit candidates.

Hilsheimer said the company would spend about three works on planning and gaining knowledge about the community, would spend the next six weeks promoting the position and recruiting candidates, would spend about three weeks interviewing candidates and then would present finalists to the board and the search committee during week 13. They then would work with the district on a transition.

Hilsheimer said this would be the first public school superintendent search her firm conducted.

She and her firm helped with the hiring of Ted DeDee, the executive director of the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.

If SearchConsultants would be used for the search, the district would be charged 30 percent of the new hire's estimated salary, as well as travel expenses.

Former superintendent Steve Castle, who resigned June 8, was making $173,666.98, not including benefits.

School board members said they were pleased both firms featured community engagement.

"Really, the reason that those two firms rose to the top is because each of them really emphasized the community engagement and community involvement pieces in conducting the search," said board member Laura Kohler.

Board president Mark Ryan said the board would discuss selection of a search firm at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 28.