The District 97 Board of Education will vote to hire an executive search firm to facilitate the process of finding a successor to outgoing superintendent Al Roberts, who announced his retirement on Jan. 6 and will leave by July 1. 

At a Jan. 13 meeting, the board voted to form a committee of two—board vice president James Gates and member Graham Brisben—to interview four search firms which responded to requests for qualifications (RFQ) earlier this month. The firms were B.W.P., Hazard, Young, Attea & Assocociates, Ray & Associates, and School Exec Connect.

By press time, the board announced that the committee had recommended the board hire Rosemont-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Assocociates. While the board had not made its decision, it was expected to act on the committee’s recommendation. 

The process for selecting a firm is considered time sensitive, since the consensus among board members is that the earlier the search begins for a new superintendent, the better pool of candidates the board has from which to select.

During the Jan. 13 meeting, one criteria the board highlighted as important in its evaluation of firms was the extent to which each engaged the community during the search process, with Gates and Brisben having each firm “clarify things that are very important to this board and community,” Brisben said at the time. 

He added that among the most important factors for the board to consider is “each firm’s perspective on stakeholder advisory input,” according to a Jan. 14, Wednesday Journal article. The Jan. 20 special meeting held to interview the four finalists was open to the public.

“Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates [HYA] began working with school boards more than 25 years ago in an effort to assist them in making the best leadership decisions possible,” according to the proposal the firm submitted to the board.

Currently, HYA has more than 150 associates around the country to “assist with the firm’s mission to provide aggressive, thorough and quality assistance to school boards…” according to the proposal.

The firm’s associates are located in 27 states. HYA claims to have assisted in the executive search process of over 1,000 school boards, with enrollments ranging from 100 to more than 200,000. 

Among the 328 superintendents HYA reports to have helped hire since 2000, 90 percent are “still in their positions or have committed four years or more to the districts they served,” according to the proposal. Eighty percent of those hires, or 263, are still in their position or retired from it and 10 percent, 32, stayed an average of about 5 years.

HYA included in its “Possible Timeline” of the search process: online surveys, leadership profile development interviews and third-party background checks, among other vetting measures. Their proposed date for the new superintendent to assume responsibility is July 1. 

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