CONTINUING COVERAGE: Atlanta school board selects superintendent search firm

The Atlanta school board picked the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to help with the search for a superintendent.

The board announced in September that it would not extend Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's contract when it expires June 30, and it wants to have hired a new leader by July 1.

To help with that search, the board voted 8-0 Thursday to negotiate a contract with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, a consulting firm based in Illinois. The firm's consulting fee is $39,500, plus travel expenses and other costs.

Board members said they were swayed by the firm’s knowledge and experience. It has conducted more than 1,200 searches across the United States, including in nearly half of the nation’s 100 biggest districts, according to board documents.

“I felt like they had a deeper, more real understanding about our current situation, where we’re at, what we want to do,” said board member Leslie Grant.

Hazard, Young has recently assisted with superintendent searches for Denver and Los Angeles.

Despite criticism the board faced from some who opposed the Carstarphen contract decision, the firm's consultants expressed optimism about the district's prospects.

Brad Draeger, a senior associate with Hazard, Young, said he doesn’t think the situation will impact the search.

“I don’t see it as damaging right now. Sometimes, you know, you go in and there’s still flames licking everywhere and actually it gets much harder for recruiting and everything,” he said.

He added that he thinks the Atlanta school board is one “that any superintendent can work with.”

The firm promised to recruit aggressively and said it’s committed to providing a diverse pool of candidates.

“What we need to do is find you three to five candidates who are just perfect matches who hadn’t thought about coming to Atlanta Public Schools. We are going to have the normal bevy of people saying ‘I can do Atlanta Public Schools.’ And we are going to screen them, and they are the easy ones. But the ones we want to bring you are the ones who haven’t thought about Atlanta Public Schools because they are probably a better match than some of the ones who think they can do this job,” Draeger said.

The board on Thursday interviewed representatives from two other search firms: McPherson & Jacobson of Nebraska and Ray and Associates, which has offices in Iowa and Sandy Springs.

Hazard, Young has worked for APS previously. The firm was hired in 2011 to help with a superintendent search, but that search was suspended when the board decided instead to hire an interim superintendent after a massive cheating scandal.

Board member Nancy Meister was absent from Thursday’s meeting.