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This search firm will help Denver find its next superintendent

Denver Public Schools Katie Wood/The Denver Post

The Denver school board has hired an Illinois-based educational executive search firm to help find candidates to replace Superintendent Tom Boasberg, who is stepping down in October.

The board has agreed to pay Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates $30,000 plus travel expenses for the consultants and the candidates who come to Denver, according to the contract between the firm and the district (on view below). The district will also pay $1,247 to advertise the position on three different job boards, including those for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, and the National Alliance of Black School Educators.

Most of the nearly 93,000 students in Denver Public Schools are black or Latino. Some community groups have explicitly called for the next superintendent to be an educator of color. The last three Denver superintendents have been white men.

The school board has laid out a tight timeline for choosing a new superintendent. It is aiming to accept applications until Sept. 14, and name a finalist or finalists by Oct. 15.

At a school board meeting Thursday to discuss the search, board member Jennifer Bacon said the team of consultants from Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates who would be working with the Denver district includes people of color and people who speak Spanish.

In an interview afterward, Bacon identified three consultants in particular: former California superintendents Maria Ott and David Gomez, and former Illinois superintendent Kay Giles.

Board member Lisa Flores said the board selected Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates because of its capacity to serve a large, urban school district and its “awareness, too, of handling those strengths and challenges that come with serving such a large district.”

The firm was established in 1987 and has helped conduct more than 1,200 superintendent searches. Groups critical of the district questioned the board’s choice, posting links on social media Friday to recent bad press the firm received in its home state.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates helped a suburban Chicago school district find a new superintendent, Floyd Williams, who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual harassment. Public records obtained by the local newspaper showed that Williams had faced similar allegations in the district where he’d worked before being recruited to the Chicago suburbs.

Asked about that press coverage, Bacon said the Denver board didn’t find any search firms with a 100-percent success rate. Board members questioned the firms about past failures and lessons learned, she said. “We had to understand what to do about that,” Bacon said, “and take charge of what it is we want to see done.”

Ultimately, Bacon said, it is up to the seven-member school board to thoroughly vet the candidates for the Denver superintendent job.

“This board is committed to do as deep a vetting as possible,” she said. “We are holding ourselves fully accountable throughout.”

Denver’s contract with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates includes a long list of things the firm will do, including interview each of the seven school board members about the qualifications and attributes they want the next superintendent to have, recruit candidates, and present a slate of semi-finalists. The firm will then schedule interviews with the semi-finalists and, at the district’s expense, “provide investigative background checks” on them, the contract says.

Once the school board makes a hire, the contract says the firm will hold a transition meeting between the new superintendent and the school board “regarding information learned throughout the search and next steps in the transition process.”

The contract also includes a warranty of sorts. It says that if the new superintendent leaves the position within a year for whatever reason, the firm will recruit new candidates at no additional cost. The same applies if the new superintendent leaves within two years “due to dissatisfaction” and a majority of the board members that hired the superintendent are still in place.

Read the full contract below.

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