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Searching for a superintendent

Sleepy Eye School Board to make decision today on search firms for assistance in hiring a new superintendent

January 8, 2009
By FRITZ BUSCH Journal Staff Write

SLEEPY EYE - Three Minnesota-based superintendent search consulting firms presented their services to the District 84 school board Tuesday.

The board is considering hiring a firm to help them hire a superintendent.

The district's current superintendent, Arla Dockter, has a $93,000 annual contract that expires June 30, 2009.

The firms are ADM Group of Maple Grove, Springsted Public Sector Advisors of St. Paul and BKB Associates of Mankato.

Norman Miller of the ADM Group of Maple Grove, said his firm was created in 1995 by superintendents looking for something to do between retirement and becoming eligible for Social Security.

Miller said his firm feels collaboration with the board, staff, students and community members is the best way to create a feeling of goodwill and find the right superintendent.

"It's a crucial time for school districts. All our people have been there and done it," Miller said.

He added that superintendents looking for positions contact his firm to help them find work in places they want to live.

"Most candidates are people we know," said Miller. "They have a longer learning curve, but there are many excellent candidates that want to move to Minnesota," said Miller. "We'll certify their credentials. We'll even go back to their high school to see if they gave us the facts. We'll help you select about 20 questions to ask candidates."

He suggested offering a new superintendent a two- or three-year contract.

His firm is currently helping the Wells, Sibley East and Bagley school districts find a superintendent

The company's 10-step search process with a $5,500 full-service fee would assist with final selection around March 27.

If the search fails to recruit an acceptable candidate, the firm would conduct a second search at half the original fee plus expenses.

"The (superintendent candidate) pool isn't as deep as it was," said Miller. "It's closer to a puddle now."

Jim Schmitt, vice president of Springsted Public Sector Advisors of St. Paul, said his firm specialized in city and county government executives for more than 25 years. It more recently began doing school superintendent searches.

Schmitt said his company would interview school board members and selected community groups to determine the structure of recruiting efforts.

Candidates would be interviewed over the phone before written overviews would be presented to the school board .

Background records would be checked by the firm before finalists would be interviewed with a Springsted representative present.

As part of its $9,000 fee, the firm will assist in employment negotiations, if requested.

The fee would be cut by 10 percent if the district named Springsted as its financial advisor.

"Naming a superintendent by mid-April or sooner would be good," said Schmitt.

Retired Mankato State University education professor and former Hudson, Wis. school superintendent Brian Boettcher said BKB Associates of Mankato has done about 100 superintendent searches since it began in 1990.

Currently working with the Milaca and Albert Lea school districts, Boettcher said if it began next week, BKB would conduct an 8-10 week superintendent search for $5,500 plus expenses.

Services would include advertising for candidates, gathering information on them and helping the board determine finalists.

He stressed the importance of the work that could easily add up to $250,000 including a multi-year superintendent contract.

The board plans to decide if and what search firm it will hire at its Thursday meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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