MISD one of 20 searching for leader

The Mercer Island School Board will pay Cascade Consulting Group up to $25,000 to help them find a permanent superintendent for the 2008-09 school year.

The board will be working directly with the firm’s founder and owner, Lee Pasquarella, who has conducted over 200 superintendent searches in his 18-year career.

According to School Board members, who interviewed a number of competing candidates, Pasquarella is “very knowledgeable about our district and community.” Kathleen Florio, who has 12 years of experience in superintendent searches, will also represent Cascade Consulting. The School Board will meet with Florio and Pasquarella on Jan. 26 to establish a formal head-hunting plan and timeline.

The School Board has given itself until March to approve of and hire a new superintendent. Next month, the district will meet with stakeholder groups and the community, asking members to share their opinions on the process and expectations for the new superintendent. This “community week” is scheduled to begin on Feb. 3.

Currently, 20 school districts in Washington state are looking for a new superintendent, including Tacoma, Bainbridge Island and Bellevue.

Like Mercer Island, Bellevue will hire a consulting group to help them find quality candidates. Its School Board, however, has not yet begun the search process and does not intend to until the 2008-09 school year. The board will spend the remaining year meeting with members of the community to discuss what they expect from a new superintendent. Bellevue hopes to hire a permanent director for the 2009-10 school year.

Meanwhile, Tacoma has signed a contract with Ray and Associates, the consulting firm that found their former superintendent, Charlie Milligan, two years ago. Milligan left for retirement last year, costing the district $418,000. Tacoma paid Ray and Associates $28,000 plus expenses to find him.

The Mercer Island School Board was faced with the task of finding a new district leader in August when former superintendent Cyndy Simms announced that she had accepted a position as head of the Walnut Valley Unified School District in southern California.

The board immediately voted that Associate Superintendent Gary Plano should fill Simms’ shoes for the 2007-08 school year, until a permanent superintendent was found. Plano, who has been leading the district since September, is an eager candidate for the position.

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