Coeur d’Alene School District trustees hired consultants on Tuesday to help them find a new superintendent.
They made history in the process.
This apparently is the first time an Idaho school board has hired experts to help with what chairwoman Wanda Quinn called “the most important decision we will make.”
The district will pay Howard Coble and Bob Marshall $15,000, plus travel expenses estimated at less than $1,000.
“For a $44 million business, this is a reasonable expense,” Quinn said.
The goal is to hire a new superintendent by April 24. That person will replace Doug Creswell, who announced his retirement in October after six years in charge of North Idaho’s largest school district.
Hiring consultants expands the pool of qualified candidates, Quinn said, because Coble and Marshall have extensive contacts.
It also provides experience in conducting background checks and expertise in matching candidates with the needs of the districts, she said.
The practice of hiring consultants is common in Washington state, where Coble and Marshall live.
Both men are semi-retired educators. This spring, they will also be looking for superintendents for the Renton and Richland districts.
They’ve done 25 or 30 searches in the last five years, said Coble, who was present at Tuesday’s special board meeting.
The number of qualified candidates has dropped dramatically in recent years, Coble said.
Many experienced people are retiring. The position offers little security. And the superintendent’s job is “a just plain tough job and it’s getting tougher all the time,” Coble said.
“In Idaho, you’re competing with states that pay more money … substantially higher, in Washington.”
District residents will have several chances to put in “their two bits’ worth” during the search, Coble said.
On Jan. 16 and 17, the consultants will be in Coeur d’Alene to speak with as many people as possible, trying to find out what kind of leader the district wants and needs.
The job will be advertised nation-wide, although Coble expects to find a candidate from the West.
Most successful candidates are those that the consultants find through their personal network of contacts, he said.
“They are not people who would normally apply. They’re people who have been encouraged to apply.”
Application deadline will be March 28.
Students, staff and others will observe while the first round of six or eight candidates are interviewed, then will be invited to share their impressions with the board.
There will be public forums with each of the two or three finalists.
No district has had to dismiss a superintendent that he and his partner have helped locate, Coble said.
“We have yet to have a failure.”
Coble has been a teacher, principal and superintendent of Snohomish and Olympia school districts. He was executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators from 1980-91.
Marshall is president of ExecuExcel. Before founding that firm, he was a member of the Washington State Board of Education and deputy state superintendent of public instruction.