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Spokane School District board narrows superintendent search

Tue., March 20, 2012

Spokane Public Schools’ board has narrowed down the superintendent search to six semifinalists.

The names are being kept confidential. However, school officials said the six people are all from outside the district and are a mix of men and women in various positions across the country.

When board members were narrowing the field, they looked for “some degree of experience in a large district,” but “success being a good leader was more important,” said Bob Douthitt, board president.

The search to replace Superintendent Nancy Stowell began in January. After Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates recruiters reviewed 652 online surveys and spoke with more than 330 Spokane residents, community leaders and school employees in 32 focus groups, they began hunting for the ideal candidate last month.

Steve Humphrey, lead recruiter, said he spoke with about 45 people, including “people I talked to who may know of good candidates as well as some potential candidates.” Twenty-two people applied.

The amount of people who applied for the position was typical, Humphrey said. “It’s about what you’d expect in a district that size; it’s a big job.”

The recruiter was not surprised by the lack of internal candidates, he said.

The six semifinalists are “an impressive slate,” Douthitt said.

The board plans to name three finalists by the end of March.

On the issue of salary, the school board and the district’s human resources department have been pulling together comparisons to prepare for negotiations with the chosen candidate.

School officials looked at the total compensation for 2010-’11 of the 75 largest school districts in Washington as well as several from across the nation.

Based on the most recent data, Stowell, head of the state’s second-largest district, with 28,085 students, was the 19th-highest-paid superintendent in the state at total compensation of $222,906. The highest-paid – at $362,914 – led the Lake Stevens School District, which had 7,526 students. The second-highest-paid was the leader of the state’s largest district, Seattle, at $295,792; Tacoma School District’s leader received $277,774.

California’s Stockton Unified School District, which had 36,000 students, paid its superintendent $260,000, according to information provided by the recruiting company. New York’s Rochester City School District, with 32,000 students, paid $225,000.

School board members also considered the cost of living in Washington locations; Spokane is slightly below the national average.

“We tried to get ourselves as educated as possible about the market – Washington being the most important,” Douthitt said.

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