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Who will find Buffalo's next superintendent?

The School Board was supposed to choose a superintendent search firm at the end of November or early December, but that process has been delayed by about two months.

Williams into officeThe board was busy dealing with school improvement plans, finding a new board member and other issues, according to Rosalyn Taylor, vice president of executive affairs. So the search for James Williams' permanent successor was delayed.

The board in mid-November issued a request for proposals for search firms. Seven proposals came in. An ad hoc committee narrowed that list to four.

The board is meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday in Room 801 of City Hall to interview the four firms. The meeting is open to the public -- if you want to attend, you'll need to make sure you use the front door of City Hall that is the farthest to the left. The building superintendent told me that door is open from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Each interview is scheduled to take about 40 minutes.

Here's the skinny on each of the firms, to give you some of the nuts and bolts and a flavor of what might set each firm apart from the others:

PROACT Search, Wilmette, Ill. Searches include Hillsborough County, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Detroit.

Average search draws 93 potential candidates.

Proposed timeline: Begins with stakeholders meeting in December 2011; concludes with finalist interviews in March/April 2012 and hiring of superintendent in April/May 2012.

“We believe that our full range of educational and business expertise and consulting capabilities provides you with contacts not available through many usual approaches to an executive search. We assure you we will conduct a national search and that we do not have a ‘stable’ of ready candidates who want a new job. For each search that our firm conducts, we assemble a team that we believe is best suited to meet the needs of the particular school district we are serving.”

Cost: $37,750, plus travel expenses ($1,000 to $3,000) and ancillary expenses ($2,000 to $4,000).

Vincent J. Coppola, University at Buffalo. Searches include Binghamton, Corning, Lancaster and Oswego.

Would narrow the applicant pool to six to eight semifinalists. The board would narrow the pool to five finalists.

Proposed timeline: Dec. 6, 2011, board determines salary range and begins advertising online the next day; concludes with mid-April interviews of finalists, followed by May 5 announcement of new superintendent and June 1 start date.

“We attend, on a regular basis, state and national conferences to not only stay current with school reform initiatives but to also meet and become better acquainted with school superintendents in New York State and throughout the country. We always set up consulting tables at the fall and winter conferences of the New York State School Superintendents to better familiarize myself with candidates seeking positions. Having served as a school superintendent, I am very familiar with many of the superintendents in New York State, as well as other aspiring superintendents.”

Cost: $25,000, plus out-of-pocket expenses and $5,000 for processing the credentials of the candidates. Additional expenses also include the cost of printing the brochure ($600) and bringing the final candidate to Buffalo for an interview.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Rosemont, Ill. Searches include Nashville, Tenn.; Wichita, Kan.; Montgomery County, Md.; and Virginia Beach, Va.

Has done more than 850 national searches in the past 23 years.

Proposed timeline: 12 to 18 weeks of selection of the search firm. Begins with planning session one week after firm is hired; concludes with selection of superintendent 12 to 18 weeks after firm is hired.

“During a typical year, HYA conducts 50 to 60 executive searches, with many occurring concurrently. We find that the large quantity of searches the firm conducts puts us at a competitive advantage with respect to other search firms, in that our volume places us in more frequent contact with a larger number of potential candidates, many of whom are not actively seeking employment but are then known to us and can be recruited when or if an appropriate position arises.”

Cost: $40,000, plus travel and other expenses estimated at $5,000; advertisements estimated at $3,500 to $7,000; candidate expenses estimated at $4,000 to $7,000; and board expenses (to travel to finalist’s home community) estimated at $2,000.

Say Yes to Education in collaboration with Cascade Consulting Group, Seattle, Wash. Searches include Syracuse; Nashville, Tenn.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Inglewood, Calif. Has conducted over 200 searches in the past 21 years.

Pool would be narrowed to up to 12 semifinalists. Say Yes-Cascade would conduct preliminary interviews with candidates in their home community. The pool would eventually be pared to two to four finalists.

Proposed timeline: 90 days.

“The success of the Buffalo Say Yes initiative will be largely dependent on the ability of the next superintendent to establish clear expectations and then develop and manage systems that ensure collaboration, transparency, implementation, evaluation, and continuous, data-driven, and accountable improvement of programs with a broad network of stakeholder groups throughout the city. We believe the Say Yes-Cascade approach will result in the selection of the most effective candidate to lead this effort during the next decade.”

Cost: $30,000. Say Yes will cover all additional costs, including travel.

- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |