The Denver school district spent $161,375 over the past four months on a superintendent search that has resulted in a single finalist: Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova.
A public records request shows that the district paid more than $100,000 to a Denver political consulting firm, Dimension Strategies, which ran nine of 11 community meetings. The firm produced a detailed report on the characteristics and qualifications that students, parents, teachers, and city residents said they wanted in the next superintendent of Denver Public Schools. The district paid another $30,000 to an executive search firm.
The school board is expected to vote to appoint the next superintendent Dec. 17, wrapping up a process that started in August shortly after former Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced he would step down. Boasberg led Colorado’s largest school district for nearly 10 years.
Students, parents, and community members have criticized the board for rushing the search, with some encouraging the board to stretch it out over an entire year. But a survey of four other large metro area districts that have conducted superintendent searches in the past two years found that Denver’s timeline was not abnormal. It wasn’t even the shortest search.
Denver’s search was the most expensive — and the only one with a six-figure price tag. It’s worth noting that Denver Public Schools provided a more extensive cost breakdown, including ancillary expenses such as mileage reimbursement and boosted Facebook posts. In response to requests from Chalkbeat, some of the other districts provided only the amount of money they paid to a search firm and the cost of travel and lodging for candidates.
The Denver board has also been criticized for naming only one finalist, especially after community members repeatedly asked for the opportunity to publicly vet multiple candidates. Board members said they intended to name multiple finalists but two others withdrew from the process, one for personal reasons and the other because of confidentiality concerns.
Two of the four other metro area districts also named just one finalist.
Get all the details below.
Denver Public Schools, approximately 92,000 students
Cost: $161,375 (so far)
How the money was spent: $30,189 to search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates; $103,300 to political consulting firm Dimension Strategies; $11,566 for printing and distributing fliers; $8,136 for translation and interpretation services; $8,083 on travel and mileage reimbursement, supplies, and other public affairs services; $100 on Facebook boosted posts
Length of search: Four months (so far)
Finalist: Susana Cordova, deputy superintendent of Denver Public Schools
Hire: Vote scheduled for Dec. 17
Jeffco Public Schools, approximately 86,000 students
How the money was spent: $46,370 to search firm Ray and Associates
Length of search: Four months
Finalist: Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools near Vail
Hire: Jason Glass
Douglas County School District, approximately 67,500 students
How the money was spent: $41,200 to search firm Ray and Associates; $4,220 for travel and lodging expenses for candidates
Length of search: Four months
Finalists: Karen Brofft, superintendent of the Lewis-Palmer School District in Monument; Daniel Clemens, superintendent of North Kansas City Schools in Kansas City, Missouri; Thomas Tucker, superintendent of Princeton City Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio
Hire: Thomas Tucker
Cherry Creek School District, approximately 55,600 students
How the money was spent: $11,000 to O’Connell Consulting, which managed the search and ran focus groups, public forums, and the online collection of feedback
Length of search: Two months
Finalist: Scott Siegfried, deputy superintendent of the Cherry Creek School District
Hire: Scott Siegfried
Boulder Valley School District, approximately 31,000 students
How the money was spent: $33,000 to search firm Ray and Associates; $10,510 for travel and lodging expenses for candidates; $2,500 for a consultant from the Colorado Association of School Boards; $1,962 for meals and snacks; $673 for translation services; $50 for postage
Length of search: Six months
Finalists: Krish Mohip, CEO of Youngstown City Schools in Youngstown, Ohio; Rob Anderson, assistant superintendent of Fulton County Schools in suburban Atlanta
Hire: Rob Anderson