Saugus Board selects superintendent search firm

Saugus Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Saugus Union School District Governing Board unanimously chose McPherson & Jacobson as its superintendent search firm during its meeting Tuesday.

As the district’s superintendent consulting firm, McPherson & Jacobson will work with the district’s Governing Board to recruit, interview, select and nominate a superintendent to the board.

“I appreciate that they have a national reach with local expertise so they get both sides of that coin, which I think is very important,” Board Member Julie Olsen said during a discussion about the search firms at the Tuesday meeting. We are not the only school district in our valley that is looking for a new superintendent, so I think we need to make sure that we choose carefully the firm that gives us the best pick.”

This January, Newhall School District Superintendent Paul Cordeiro also announced his impending retirement, making SUSD the second district in the Santa Clarita Valley to conduct a superintendent search this spring.

Backed by the California School Boards Association (CSBA), McPherson & Jacobson is a national firm that has placed more than 675 superintendents and public officials throughout the country and 35 superintendents in California.

Of superintendents chosen from these searches, 80 percent remained in the same position for five years and 60 percent remained in the same position after 10 years, according to McPherson & Jacobson consultants Michael McCoy and William Huyett who presented to the Saugus Governing Board Jan. 16.

The firm works in five phases to select a new superintendent and has a two-year guarantee period to return and repeat the search process if the chosen person leaves for any reason.

However, despite its guarantee, the firm was mainly selected over its two competitors—Leadership Associates and The Cosca Group—for its promise to engage all of the district’s stakeholders and desire to bring the board a diverse list of applicants.

“One thing I appreciated with the McPherson presentation is that they directly addressed diversity and how they put together a diverse applicant pool,” Board Member David Powell said during a discussion about the search firms at the Tuesday meeting. “They provided us with some evidence that they produced those diverse pools in the past.”

The firm also works with the district’s staff and school communities by having group conversations with district employees, speaking with parents at school sites and including stakeholders in the interview process.

“The things you look for is what their availability is to this board, how their community outreach is to our stakeholders which are our employees and our school communities,” Board Member Judy Umeck said during a discussion about the search firms at the Tuesday meeting.

Cost was a consideration in the superintendent search firm choice; however, all three firms within about $4,000 of each other.

Leadership Associates’ all-inclusive fee was $23,500, The Cosca Group’s all-inclusive fee was $27,744 and McPherson & Jacobson fee was $17,000, in addition to fees for advertisement, office expenses, consultant travel and expenses, totaling no more than $25,450.

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