Several members of the New Albany-Plain Local school board seemed ready to choose a search firm June 28 and begin the district's search for a new superintendent.

Several members of the New Albany-Plain Local school board seemed ready to choose a search firm June 28 and begin the district's search for a new superintendent.

Mike Klein asked his peers to delay their vote another week to the July 6 special meeting.

"I think it's important to discuss the process and, frankly, how we got here," Klein said.

The school board is seeking a new superintendent after approving Steve Castle's resignation June 8. On June 21, the board interviewed two search firms: School Exec Connect of Highland Park, Ill., and SC Search Consultants of Columbus.

Board vice president Laura Kohler said she and board members Cheri Lehmann and Natalie Matt looked at six search firms before they were sworn in as board members.

Lehmann said they also talked to city officials and school administrators to educate themselves before they were sworn in.

Matt said all board members were aware of the six firms that were interviewed by the incoming board members, two of which were School Exec Connect and SC Search Consultants. She asked Klein if he wanted to start the process over.

Klein said the process needs to move forward, but he said he wanted more transparency moving forward.

Kohler said she didn't see the need to wait another week to decide on a search firm. She said she called the two firms' references because she was undecided after the June 21 meeting and needed more information.

"This is the most important thing we will be asked to do as a board," she said of hiring a new superintendent.

Kohler and Lehmann seemed to favor SC Search Consultants.

Kohler said the firm helped Capital University hire an assistant dean of academic affairs for the law school, without having conducted that type of search previously. She said the reference she contacted said SC was not hindered by its lack of experience in searching for that type of position.

Lehmann agreed, saying SC "lives in our community." Her criteria for a search firm includes the ability to communicate well with the board and the community.

"Our community loves information and actually demands it," Lehmann said.

Kohler said she also values the communication process, saying the search firm must encourage residents to be involved in developing a profile for a potential superintendent. She said the board will hire the candidate, but she said the community must be part of the process.

Klein said he favors School Exec Connect, which he said included a calendar with scheduling to set up focus groups and community surveys.

He said School Exec Connect knows how to recruit and find successful candidates.

Also, he said it appears SC Search Consultants will cost the district more money than School Exec Connect.

During their June 21 presentations, School Exec Connect proposed a $19,500 fee with an additional $4,000 for advertising and up to $5,500 in travel and other expenses. SC Search Consultants would charge 30 percent of the new hire's estimated salary, as well as travel expenses. Castle was paid $173,666.98, excluding benefits, a rate that would cost the district more than $52,000 with SC.

Matt said either firm would do a good job, but she said SC Search Consultants seems to have a wider search range.

Board president Mark Ryan said, in his experience, a more research-based search with a wider scope is better. He also recommended heavy involvement in creating the profile for a new superintendent.

Interim superintendent Bill Reimer said even if there is disagreement on the process, the board cannot go wrong with either of the firms. He said both are qualified and the board is going to control the process, setting up a profile and determining the level of community involvement.

"I don't see how you can lose on this step," Reimer said.

The board is expected to discuss the firm selection again during a July 6 special meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts.