School board selects firm to run superintendent search, names new HR director

McPherson & Jacobson to be offered $28,000 district contract

The Pleasanton school board Tuesday night chose a search firm to handle the recruitment, application and interview process of selecting a new district superintendent.

The board voted unanimously at a special meeting to select Omaha-based firm McPherson & Jacobson LLC, which put in a bid of $28,000 for the search. The firm will be offered a contract, which will be formally voted upon for approval at the regular Nov. 10 board meeting.

The search firm will be an integral part to the superintendent search process. The firm will actively recruit candidates by seeking out individuals who may not be looking for a job but would be good leaders for the district, and it will be involved in interviewing and screening those candidates, as well as soliciting advice from community groups.

The district is searching for a new leader after former superintendent Parvin Ahmadi left in May to become Castro Valley's superintendent. Former Amador Valley principal Jim Hansen stepped into the role of interim superintendent this summer, and his contract continues until June.

Board members said they were impressed with McPherson & Jacobson's track record of placing more than 600 superintendents across the country -- about three of whom didn't work out. The firm said 80% of the superintendents they placed were still at that post five years later, and about half were still at that job 15 years later.

The firm said they recommend including the community through a designated community panel, which could interview superintendent candidates. While board members said they wanted community involvement and were open to the idea of a committee of stakeholders, they said they'd have to decide later whether such a panel would be the best approach.

Some search firms cautioned that any process that wasn't 100% private could cause strong candidates who currently have jobs to avoid applying since there may be a perception that their current position could be compromised if it became known they were looking for another position.

McPherson & Jacobson CEO Tom Jacobson said the firm recommends keeping the search private until finalists are selected, and then the finalists' names could become public. At that point, he said, stakeholders could interview those two or three candidates. However, he said the firm would do whatever the board prefers.

Some board members said they were leaning toward La Quinta-based Leadership Associates as a top choice, but the sticking point was mostly based on consultant Phil Quan's previous involvement with the board. During the board's last superintendent search five years ago, Quan worked with search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates when the board selected Ahmadi, and board members Jamie Hintzke and Valerie Arkin said they had reservations about selecting Leadership Associates because of how the search was conducted last time.

Leadership Associates' bid was for $27,950. The board also interviewed Atlantic Research Partners, which submitted a bid of $23,000, and Dave Long & Associates, which submitted a bid of $25,950.

McPherson & Jacobson is the primary search firm for the California School Boards Association, a statewide education association that represents elected officials in public school districts.

The board also appointed Aileen Parsons as the new director of human resources.

Parsons, currently principal at Pleasanton Middle School, has been an educator for 17 years and has been principal for three years. She will be filling an opening previously held by Mark McCoy, who left the district last month to take a job as Dublin Unified's assistant superintendent of human resources.

She said Tuesday night she hadn't worked out the details about a timeline for beginning her new role.

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7 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Nov 4, 2015 at 8:14 am

Ms. Parsons is an excellent choice. An internal candidate who knows the school district. A great hire by the Board.

5 people like this
Posted by Robin Taggart
a resident of Laguna Vista
on Nov 4, 2015 at 8:51 am

I am wondering why an independent firm needed to be hired to find a SuperIntendent. Why can't there be an internal hire? I know a lot of dedicated people in Pleasanton that would do a fantastic job in this position. It will be interesting to see who comes on board!!!

3 people like this
Posted by Dh
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Nov 4, 2015 at 9:10 am

Were you really have to pay an outside firm 20 K each to a total of 100 grand for $200,000 job ? What a government farce. The school board and unions are in on it they should all be fired

7 people like this
Posted by FHS Parent
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Nov 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

Dh - Did you read the article? The district accepted bids to conduct a search by several firms. The firms were not paid $20k each to submit a bid. One bid (McPherson & Jacobson) was accepted based on qualifications and prior performance. Their bid was $28k (bid range was $23k to $28k). It is normal to contract a search firm to hire a $200k position. Hiring a search firm does not preclude an internal hire: it ensures the candidate pool meets the expectations of the board and community.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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