Joliet District 204 narrowing search

The Joliet Township High School District 204 Board of Education listened to a presentation Tuesday for another superintendent search selection firm.

Officials are looking to replace Superintendent Dr. Cheryl McCarthy, set to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.

In December 2017, McCarthy announced to the Board of Education her decision to retire after nearly 33 years.

The superintendent search selection firm BWP & Associates gave its pitch on why the District should work with them.

“As we start to recruit and talk to the candidates about the position, we’re coaching them along the way,” said Sheila Harrison-Williams, a partner for BWP & Associates. “We’re talking to them about what your expectations are. So, we’re going to hold their hand, just like we’ll holding your hand, throughout this entire process because we want everyone to be successful. We want to do a great job with the search, but we also want you to make the best decision when it’s time for you to select your next superintendent.”

Last month, officials sat in on a similar type presentation by a partner for School Exec Connect.

BWP & Associates presented a proposal valued at $22,000 to the school board, plus estimated costs in the amount of $2,000 for advertising.

The superintendent search selection process involves several components, including the creation of a leadership profile, a survey, community meetings, board training and focus groups.

BWP & Associates anticipates generating an initial pool of at least 40 candidates, many of which will come from Illinois and neighboring states, some of which will be attracted from elsewhere in the nation.

“When we ask questions about instruction and students, we really want to hear some good clear answers from our candidate, that’s where their head is and priorities are, too,” said Anne Noland, partner for BWP & Associates.

The proposal, as presented, includes a two-year guarantee giving the District some assurance that the firm will restart its superintendent search, if it is needed.

Board Member Angel Contreras questioned if the firm had experienced any recent difficulties working with larger, more diverse districts.

Noland tried to lessen the concern.

“Some people like a smaller elementary district, but a larger, diverse high school district is very attractive to a lot of people,” she said. “A community this size is very attractive.”

It is not uncommon to note a lot of disconnect between the larger school districts and the community. Ron Barnes, partner, BWP & Associates, spoke of his experience working with school districts of this type and said it’s clear, however, that a lot of connections exist in District 204.

Board Member Arlene Albert agreed.

“This is a district that, in the last few years, has worked very hard at making good community connections,” she said. “We have a great deal of community support, and we’re very proud of that.”

The firm often places sitting superintendents to fill vacancies. Typically, they have the knowledge, experience and skills to hit the ground running.

Albert questioned if the firm would bring candidates nearing retirement to the Board of Education.

“I don’t want to be absolute on that because we’ll look for the best-fit, the most passion, the person who can really do a good job for you,” she said. “It’s hard to say who that’ll be. I don’t want to close anybody’s minds to looking.”

Barnes explained that sometimes it’s the right fit, and sometimes it’s not and went on to say that two years ago, a situation of this type generated positive results in placing a superintendent at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

“It has to be a match both ways,” he said.

The Board of Education will choose a firm to lead the District’s search for its next superintendent by June. That new hire is not anticipated to start working until at least July 2019.