Thursday, May 07, 2015

KBE Commissioner's Search, Full Steam Ahead

I guess we now know why the KBE quickly changed its deliberations regarding a search firm to open session. There was only one remaining candidate.

What began to look like Kentucky's most open process ever, quickly changed, and seems to have turned into a secret selection process. What Greenwood & Associates describe as a code of ethics, might also be called a gag order against sharing information on the finalists with the public.

One man's confidentiality is another man's secrecy.

The last time KBE conducted a secret search was in 2007, when KBE was a trying to replace Gene Wilhoit, and a single finalist was named to the post. Veteran educators will recall what a mess that created.

Let's hope that KBE plans to announce three (or so) finalists and just forgot to mention it, or that perhaps that tid bit didn't make it into the news story. But this situation bears watching.

This from KSBA:
A Florida company familiar with high profile executive job searches in the Commonwealth will work with the Kentucky Board of Education on its task of replacing Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. With that selection Thursday afternoon in Louisville, the formal process to find Holliday’s successor is underway full speed.
Dr. Betty Asher (left) and Dr. Jan Greenwood

Greenwood/Asher & Associates of Miramar Beach, Fla., will be paid $80,000 under a contract that will be signed shortly.  It was the only search firm interviewed for the job.

A KBE subcommittee considered proposals by four firms before recommending Greenwood/Asher, which assisted the state board in 2009 when Holliday was hired. It also assisted with the last two presidential searches at the University of Kentucky and in the selection of New York’s K-12 commissioner.

“They made a very strong proposal and have a strong history with Kentucky,” said KBE Chairman Roger Marcum of Bardstown.

The board vote was unanimous. KBE member Mary Gwen Wheeler of Louisville added she was “very impressed with their depth of experience.”

“We have a lot personally involved in this search and are glad to be back in Kentucky,” said co-founder Dr. Jan Greenwood. Greenwood made the company’s pitch with co-founder Dr. Betty Turner Asher, a native of Breathitt County.

The candidate market

Greenwood told the KBE that while it would use its database of tens of thousands of education leaders in the process, the market for commissioner of education typically is much smaller.

“Most of the commissioner searches have gone looking at superintendents or deputy or associate commissioners, but we have the ability to look beyond that to the federal government,” she said. “But if you look at the national market, the majority of these positions have been filled by superintendents, deputy or associate commissioners.”

Greenwood said she couldn’t speculate on how many candidates to expect, although she and Asher both said Kentucky's stature on the national education scene would add to the attractiveness of the post.

“We will reach out to numbers of people across the country for third-party endorsements for who they believe to be education leaders,” she said. “Most searches end up with 20 ‘A+’ candidates.

“No one wants to rush. This time of the year, you get into a little quirky market. You have some people who, after the previous school year, decide they want to relocate, were terminated, or are looking for a change. Many of the people we reach out to have really not considered looking for another position,” Greenwood said, pledging that diversity in the candidate recruitment process would be an element of the search.

In general, Asher and Greenwood recommended a process as follows:
      · After an initial screening by the search firm, the KBE would do an initial interview with 10 to 12 candidates.
      · After the pool was narrowed further by KBE, the company would perform a “360-degree background check” involving supervisors, colleagues and stakeholders, reporting those results back to the state board. A more intense criminal background check could be done on the finalists.
      · Finally, a two-day second round of interviews would take place between the KBE and however many finalists the state board members select. Based on the consultants’ discussion with the state board, those meetings would take place near a Kentucky city with an airport with multiple flight options for candidate access.
Emphasis on confidentiality

Both Asher and Greenwood emphasized to KBE members the critical element of confidentiality throughout the search process.

“There are consequences when names get out into public too quickly. That is a very important part of the Code of Ethics (a company-recommended list of dos and don’ts for the state board) to respect the confidentiality of candidates,” Asher said. “It is highly probable that if we have a high profile superintendent, he or she may not want his or her board to know that they are looking at another opportunity. So we may have to talk to other people who may have a different working relationship (with the candidate).”

Greenwood added, “Confidentiality is really important because this is other people’s lives. People have lost their jobs because they were looking at another job. It’s hard to go back home when you are identified as looking at a job, don’t get it and then have to go back home and face questions.”

Moving forward

The state board spent Thursday morning with former Kentucky Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit, who facilitated the beginnings of a set of characteristics for the next commissioner. That list should be completed within the week. In the meantime, KBE members gave Asher and Greenwood these highlights:
      · Personal leadership style, balancing KDE’s compliance and support roles
      · Ability to communicate, build good working relationship with local stakeholders
      · Background work to develop student achievement, closing achievement gaps
      · Addressing criticisms/attacks on public education
The consultants will contact a variety of K-12 stakeholders for input, while the Department of Education will create on online survey to allow the public to provide feedback on the most important skills in the next commissioner.

“We want that communicated well, that this survey is open and people have time to comment,” said KBE member William Twyman of Glasgow.

Marcum said he hopes the board can make a hire before Holliday’s Aug. 31 retirement, although there was agreement among the state board members that the most important outcome is to “pick the right person.”

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