The Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education selected Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, of Rosemont, Ill., to conduct the search for a new superintendent after Frances Stromsland retires at the end of the year.
At Monday's meeting, board members heard proposals from New Jersey School Boards Association representative Bernard Baggs and Bill Librera and Dwight Pfennig, of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates. The NJSBA had assisted in recent superintendent searches for the Green Brook and Watchung school districts, while HYA was selected for Warren Township's search.
Both proposals outlined a similar process for the search, beginning with helping the board identify criteria sought in the next superintendent, with input from the public and district staff, followed by advertising—and in the case of HYA, possible recruiting of potential candidates, background checks and vetting of applicants to yield a field of finalists for the board to interview.
After hearing the proposals, the board met in closed session for about 30 minutes and returned to vote on which firm to hire.
The first ballot for each split the board equally, with Board President Robert Horowitz, Vice President Harold Grossnickle, Christopher Collins, Sondra Fechtner and Gregory Przybylski voting in favor of HYA, while Gerry Binder, Lisa DiMizio, Peter Falzarano, Barry Hunsinger and Laura Mandell voting in favor of the NJSBA.
Board members then discussed the availability of the representatives to begin the search, with members noting the urgency of the situation.
"The ability to meet a schedule really concerns me—the ability to get someone in before July," Grossnickle said. "I'm concerned the schedule will slip."
Mandell noted that while both groups "bring a lot to the table," HYA had indicated work could begin as soon as next week.
"Time is of the essence," she said. "We can't obviously delay this until the next meeting."
She then moved to hire HYA for the search, adding a sixth vote to hire the firm (Binder abstained on the second ballot).
The members also noted the extensive experience HYA's Labrera and Pfennig offer, having performed more than 40 superintendent searches in New Jersey in the last five years. Both are retired New Jersey school superintendents and Pfennig served as deputy commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education.
In the proposals, the NJSBA said its fees ranged from $3,500 to $15,000 for searches, depending on the services requested by the board. While HYA did not publicly discuss its fees, Dr. Przybylski said the search the firm did for Warren Township was comparable in cost to the fees structures presented by the NJSBA.
The board said the fee for HYA's services are to be negotiated.
After the vote affirming the company's selection, Librera asked when the board would like to meet again.
"How about right after this meeting?" Binder shot back.
Librera said the firm would contact the board early next week to begin the search.