AVL school board selects firm to lead superintendent search

SEARCH PARTY: Members of the Asheville City Board of Education chose the search firm Summit Search Solutions to lead the district's superintendent search during their Feb. 13 meeting. Screen capture courtesy of Asheville City Schools

Asheville City Schools is one step closer to finding someone to steer the district as superintendent after the Asheville City Board of Education voted at its Feb. 13 meeting  to hire a firm to lead the search effort.

Board Chair George Sieburg explained that school board members reviewed seven search firm proposals that were received last month before narrowing the candidates down to three. Sieburg and Vice Chair Amy Ray interviewed the finalists before settling on Summit.

Summit Search Solutions described itself in its proposal as a “boutique” search firm that specializes in education. The firm is headquartered in Asheville, with offices in five other states.

“We were really impressed with how prepared Summit is to work with us. The fact that they came in talking about what they’ve already seen in our board sessions and the work that we’ve already done, they were really encouraged by that work,” said Sieburg. “In the conversations that Amy and I had with everyone, we felt they had stood above the rest.”

Ray acknowledged that Summit’s original bid at $35,000 was “significantly higher in terms of the cost to the school district,” but that the board was able to negotiate the contract down to $30,000. 

“The cost is still a little bit higher than our other choices. But at the end of the day, what convinced me was the services, the amount of work that they are prepared to do and the expertise that they can bring to our district,” Ray explained.

Summit’s proposal states that the firm will facilitate focus group and input meetings, identify and vet prospects before interviewing and recommending finalists to the board. 

Sieburg said that at the recommendation of Summit, the board will extend the deadline for applications from  March 1 to mid-March, as well as amend some of the application questions. “Their caution was that it’s such a cumbersome application, that given what potential applicants are doing in their lives anyway … that might be better served for us to ask those questions as we enter into maybe the first round of interviews.”

Summit’s proposal also included a guarantee that the superintendent would serve the district for at least one year, otherwise the firm would conduct another search at no cost. But before the vote, board member Liza Kelly requested that the firm guarantee its final candidate for two years, noting that the district has hired five superintendents over the last 10 years. Former Superintendent Gene Freeman left abruptly in June, more than five months before his previously announced November retirement, when the district bought out his contract

“I just want to acknowledge that we’ve had a revolving door of superintendents and I really don’t want to go down that path again,” Kelly said. 

Summit subsequently agreed, guaranteeing to repeat the search process if the recruit left for any reason during the first year of employment, or was terminated or resigned based on performance-related issues within two years on the job.

Asheville City Schools spokesperson Dillon Huffman told Xpress after the meeting that work with Summit will begin this week and will end after a new superintendent starts in July. 

Have your say 

The school board has scheduled seven public input sessions aimed at gathering feedback and recommendations from community members regarding the superintendent search, starting Thursday, Feb. 16, at Ira B. Jones Elementary School. More info at avl.mx/cez.

  • Thursday, Feb. 16 at Ira B. Jones Elementary: 6 p.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 20 Virtual Option: 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Asheville Middle School: 5:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Hall Fletcher Elementary: 10:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 at The Arthur R. Edington Center: 6 p.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 27 Isaac Dickson Elementary: 8:15 a.m.
  • Wednesday, March 1 at Asheville High/SILSA: 6 p.m.

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