Sequim school board picks superintendent search firm

Sequim schools are in the market for a new superintendent, and helping them along the way is a firm busy placing lead administrators in neighboring school districts.

Sequim school board directors on Monday night unanimously approved seeking a contract with Human Capital Enterprises to lead the search of a superintendent for the 2021-2022 school year.

Led by founder Hank Harris, Human Capital Enterprises is in the final stages of superintendent searches in Chimacum and Port Townsend.

“I know that they’ve been pleased with their search firm direction over the past year,” Sequim board director Jim Stoffer said.

Stoffer and board director Eric Pickens pointed to the firm’s strong commitment to finding a diverse pool of candidates as a reason it stood out over the others.

“When it comes to the comprehensive search and the ideal candidate of what Sequim is looking for … this particular organization (is) really going to find that quality that’s very specific (to Sequim),” Pickens said.

Board directors selected Human Capital Enterprises over two finalists Sequim worked with in recent superintendent selections. Directors also considered superintendent search firms McPherson Jacobson LLC and Northwest Leadership Associates.

Sequim schools used McPherson Jacobson to select Kelly Shea in 2012 while Northwest Leadership Associates led the search that resulted in the hiring of Robert Clark in 2019.

“They all have things to offer us … and they were all very good at answering our questions,” board director Larry Jeffryes said.

Human Capital Enterprises’s projected fee for the superintendent search is $23,760.

Neither of the other search firm cost estimates exceeded $15,000.

Board director Brian Kuh said that fee difference did cause him some concern but that “it’s an investment I’m comfortable making” particularly in light of the overall investment in a superintendent.

“When you look at it under that light, it’s worth a little bit more,” Pickens said.

“Regardless of cost, Human Capitol Enterprises for me provides the best opportunity … to find a good match for an excellent superintendent for (Sequim) school for years to come,” Jeffryes said.

Timeline, process

According to a superintendent search timeline provided to the board by Harris, Sequim’s superintendent search kicks off with the next board meeting (Monday, Feb. 15) and could conclude by as early as May 1:

• Feb. 22-March 23 — recruitment process

• March 1-3 — board conversations, key stakeholder conversations

• March 4 — presentation of ideal profile

• March 26-28 — preliminary interviews

• March 29 — presentation of slate

• March 31 or April 1 — semifinalist interviews (first round)

• Week of April 12 — finalist (second round) interviews

• April 17 — board meets to identify preferred candidates

• Late April — board members conduct site visit (optional)/candidate visits Sequim

• May 1 — target date for announcement

“The outcome is to find an extraordinary leader for Sequim,” Harris told board directors at a Jan. 26 special meeting, as the board heard pitches from three search firm candidates.

“We think it’s not only important that you find the right talent but that … we make sure your community feels like it’s a collaborative piece.”

That community component, he said, can come in different forms, typically in the form of a 15-member stakeholder group. An online survey is an option as well, he said.

Harris, who has background as a human resources officer (Portland, Ore., and Bellingham) and consultant who has also worked as a teacher and middle school principal, said that because of pandemic restrictions much of the superintendent search will have to come virtually.

“We need to know your community a bit before we do search,” he said last week, noting that under normal circumstances that would mean some “time on the ground” visiting the schools and local cafes.

“We’ve found over the last 12 months we’ve been able to understand … school districts through the virtual (setting),” he said.

Harris said getting a diversity in a pool of candidates for a can be difficult for communities like Sequim.

“That is a challenge in our part of the country, isn’t it? How do we make it that we’re not unintentionally keeping people out of the process because they don’t look like me and talk like me?”

However, he noted that candidates for Sequim’s next superintendent can be from outside the region if they have an “ethos” that matches the Pacific Northwest.

“Something I’ve found in (superintendent candidates) is that if they aren’t rooted in the Pacific Northwest, they ought to have a compelling story of why they want to be here,” Harris said.

“I want everyone who touches this search … to walk away from this search to say, ‘Sequim is an amazing place. This is really well-done. This is really polished.’”

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