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Birmingham Board Hires School Connect Exec for Superintendent Search

Board of Education retains the same company that recruited current Superintendent David Larson to the Illinois position for which he is leaving Birmingham. A meeting planning the search is scheduled for April 10.

The Birmingham Board of Education hired School Exec Connect on Tuesday night to head up its search for someone to replace outgoing Superintendent David Larson.

During a special meeting Tuesday night, the six school board members present — Trustee Chris Conti was absent — voted unanimously to hire the search firm out of three that it interviewed. 

 in Glen Ellyn, IL, early last week, and will be leaving Birmingham on July 1.

Joining School Exec Connect in vying for the role was the Michigan Leadership Institute and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. All three firms specialize in school superintendent searches.

Though final contract details are yet to be hammered out, School Exec Connect representatives said they could offer consultant services for $19,500. The firm will also charge a projected $4,500 for additional expenses (including travel) and $3,800 for advertisements.

'We will find someone as good as David Larson'

School board members said they were impressed with how prepared School Exec Connect was coming into the interview — along with its presentation, the firm also provided a sample print advertisement and contract.

The company, which was founded in 2004 and is based in Highland Park, IL, was represented by firm President Linda Hanson; David Peterson, a retired superintendent at the Northern Suburban Education District; and William Hamilton, a retired superintendent from Walled Lake Consolidated Schools.

All three will consult during Birmingham's superintendent search, a high point noted by school board trustees.

"I feel we're in good hands," school board Trustee Geri Rinschler said. "I feel we won't have to do this (search) by ourselves."

Trustee Lori Soifer agreed. "How smart to bring a contract, too," Soifer said. "They know we have a short time frame."

Besides conducting superintendent searches in nearby school districts — including Bloomfield Hills, Rochester and Novi — School Exec Connect was the search firm that initially recruited Larson for the Glenbard Township High School District earlier this year.

According to a presentation for the board, the firm has 45 consultants and conducted more than 150 searches across the region. With a network of superintendents and educators in Michigan and nationwide, Hanson said her firm has a record of recruiting top quality superintendents across the country.

"We have a feel for high quality suburban school districts," she said.

Hamilton noted that since School Exec Connect recruited Larson, they know how important it is for Birmingham Public Schools to find someone of the same quality.

"We will find someone as good as Dave Larson," Hamilton said.

Next step: planning meetings, community feedback

The process of searching for a new superintendent begins immediately. School board President Susan Hill notified School Exec representatives of the decision almost immediately Tuesday night and set up a planning meeting with the firm for 6 p.m. April 10.

As part of its search, Hanson said School Exec will conduct a national and statewide advertising campaign, as well as solicit feedback from key groups in the community.

From there, Hanson said the process will move as quickly as possible to ensure a new superintendent is in place by the time Larson leaves this summer. After the planning meeting, the process will include: candidate recruitment, an initial selection, vetting of candidates, presentations to the board and interviews.

The firm also screens candidates traditionally and electronically, Hanson said. In total, candidates will undergo 14 reference checks during the selection process.

Still, Hanson said finding the right pool of candidates may be difficult considering tight budgets and the educational climate in Michigan.

While Birmingham is a benchmark district with an enviable strategic plan and relatively stable finances, Hanson said attracting top leadership to Michigan — where state education budgets are being cut and districts are competing for funds — is a challenge.

Looking forward, Hanson said high profile districts typically attract fewer candidates — Bloomfield Hills only had approximately 25 applicants during its  superintendent search, so Birmingham should expect to see a initial pool of 24-30 candidates. Hanson also noted that 60 percent of candidates are typically found within the state.

Check out Birmingham Schools Superintendent Search 2012 for more on Birmingham Public Schools' search for a new superintendent this spring and summer.


Greg Thrasher March 28, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Regarding the search firm hired by the BSB one hopes this firm has a diverse staff( read Black employees) who will be a part of this search. Quite often vendors don't share the same EOE policies as their clients.I hope the Board engaged a firm that reflected their EOE policy.

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