3 firms left in bid to search for next Atlanta school superintendent

Three search firms are in the running to help Atlanta Public Schools find its next superintendent.

The board announced in September that it would not extend Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's contract when it expires June 30.

Since then, the board has begun a search for a new leader. It aims to have someone on the job by July 1.

Friday the board reviewed five consultants who expressed interest in working on the search. Board members eliminated one firm because it didn’t meet the deadline to submit information and cut another because it hasn’t participated in a superintendent search before.

That leaves three firms under consideration: Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Illinois; McPherson & Jacobson of Nebraska; and Ray and Associates, which has offices in Iowa and Sandy Springs.

The firms quoted prices ranging around $40,000, plus expenses such as travel.

Board chairman Jason Esteves said the plan is to check the firms’ references and history with APS before potentially interviewing some or all of the consultants and voting to hire someone on Nov. 14.

Board members also want the chosen firm to agree to let the board offer a finder’s fee to any firm that recommends a candidate the board selects. The idea is that by dangling a financial incentive to all firms the board will attract a stronger pool of candidates.

At least one of the three search firms has worked with APS before.

The board hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to help with a superintendent search in 2011 but suspended that search and instead hired an interim superintendent after a massive cheating scandal.

Over the past few weeks, the board held four meetings to gather input from parents, employees and others about what they want in the next leader. A desire for a superintendent who has classroom and administrative experience emerged as one common theme.

While opinions varied on whether the person should be local, there was agreement at the community meetings that he or she should be able to navigate Atlanta politics, according to the facilitator who ran the meetings.

An online survey is being developed to give more people a chance to provide input about the search.