Power Brokers Revisited

A directory of firms that conduct national or regional superintendent searches. by Paul Riede
When The School Administrator first examined the subject of superintendent searches in February 1994, the magazine compiled a directory of 23 consulting firms that at that time were contracting with boards of education to fill leadership vacancies.

The magazine’s latest examination of the field has identified 29 private firms in the business of conducting superintendent searches on a regional or nationwide basis. The list, although representative of the more active private firms, is by no means a full accounting of those who search for superintendents. Within the past two years, 233 search firms or organizations have advertised for candidates through AASA’s electronic Job Bulletin. While some have been around for two decades or more, others come and go with regularity.

One major executive search firm, Heidrick and Struggles, was doing just a handful of superintendent searches a decade ago. It now reports it is averaging about 50 a year, more than any other firm. Another large firm featured in the 1994 directory, Korn/Ferry International, has gone the other way, scaling back its work on superintendent searches to a mere trickle.

Others have come and gone. Linda Dawson, president of the Aspen Group, a Colorado-based educational consulting firm, says she got out of the superintendent search business because it simply wasn’t worth it to keep it up. “It’s very time consuming, extremely labor-intensive if you do it right. I think there are a lot of people who get into the search business because they’ve been involved in a search and think they can just jump in and do it. And I think that is a misguided notion.”

Our listing does not include school boards associations that run searches within their states. (A survey in 2001 by the National School Boards Association found 34 state associations with search arms.) Nor does it include the regional education centers or intermediate school districts that are active in searches in some states.

Myriad other private and nonprofit organizations do searches for school leaders from time to time, but there is no single listing of all those groups. NSBA updated its list of private search firms in February 2002, but that list contains only 15 companies. One has since stopped doing school searches; the remaining 14 are among those included here.

NSBA itself stopped doing searches five years ago, both to cut expenses and because so many state associations are now doing them.

Because of the increasing numbers of retirements among graying superintendents and a shrinking pool of willing candidates, search firms are in more demand than ever. Even with the increasing numbers of firms, some searchers say there is still plenty of business to go around. But like Dawson they warn those who are thinking about entering the field to carefully assess what they are getting into. Searches these days can be lengthy, painstaking exercises.

“It is a calling, it’s not a job,” says George Goens, a senior partner in the Connecticut firm Goens/Esparo LLC and a former superintendent. “You have to consider it your life’s work.”

Paul Riede is an education writer with The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. E-mail: hoffried@twcny.rr.com

The Bickert Group
1340 Wilmot Drive
Deerfield, IL 60015
Phone: 708-361-4997
E-mail: robarnes@indiana.edu
Website: www.thebickertgroup.com
Founded in 1992, this firm has four partners and 19 associates across the country. It does about 20 searches a year, mostly in the Midwest. Fees are from $14,000 to $20,000 with board expenses ranging from $10,000 to $15,000. Ron Barnes, a professor at Indiana University and a former superintendent, is the managing partner.

Bracewell & Patterson LLP
711 Louisiana, Suite 2900
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: 713-221-1415
E-mail: jthompson@bracepatt.com
Website: www.bracepatt.com
This international law firm, founded in 1945, began doing a small number of searches in 1999. David Thompson, a partner in the firm’s public law group, teamed up with Dallas superintendent Mike Moses to do two to four high-profile searches each year in Texas. Moses’ contract as superintendent allows him to use a limited number of days each year for consulting, and he uses them for the search business. Expenses and fees range from $12,000 to $22,000 per search.

Castallo & Silky Education Consultants
P.O. Box 100
Syracuse, NY 13215
Phone: 315-492-4474
E-mail: wdsilky@aol.com
The firm’s two managing partners, William D. Silky and Richard Castallo, joined
forces in 2001, though each was involved in superintendent searches for more than 17 years. Silky, an education professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, and Castallo, an education professor at SUNY Cortland, met halfway and established a headquarters in Syracuse. The firm employs four professional staff members and does six to eight searches a year, primarily in New York state. Fees and expenses range from $14,000 to $20,000 per search.

Floyd Consulting
P.O. Box 34523
Bethesda, MD 20827
Phone: 301-229-4480
E-mail: jfloyd3208@aol.com
Jeremiah Floyd, senior partner, created the search program at the National School Boards Association in 1978. After retiring from that group, he started his own firm in 1998. He gets much of his work from NSBA, which has stopped doing searches. With help from about 12 on-call consultants, he handles about a half dozen assignments a year. Fees and expenses range from $18,000 to $40,000.

Focus Consulting Associates LLC
P.O. Box 516
Carmel, NY 10512
Phone: 845-225-1031
E-mail: brucekb@rcn.com
Established in 1986, the firm does five to eight searches a year, mostly in the greater New York City and Hudson Valley areas. It has a professional staff of five led by managing partner Vincent Beni. Fees and expenses range from $15,000 to $22,000 per search.

Goens/Esparo LLC
P.O. Box 271740
West Hartford, CT 06127-1740
Phone: 860-567-1945 or 860-284-9888
E-mail: gagoens@snet.net or esparoloumae@aol.com
Website: www.goensesparo.com
The firm, founded in 1998, does 20 to 30 searches per year. It is led by senior partners and former superintendents George A. Goens and Louis J. Esparo, who work with two associates and clerical support. The firm's fees and expenses range from $14,000 to $40,000 per search.

G. Tryon and Associates
P.O. Box 265
Johnston, IA 50131
Phone: 515-727-5807
E-mail: gtryon@mchsi.com
The firm, established in 2001, employs five professionals who work on 12 to 15 superintendent searches a year. Fees and expenses for the searches range from $5,000 to $10,000. The company’s president is Gaylord Tryon, former executive director of the School Administrators of Iowa.

Harold Webb Associates
6532 Lost Horizon, Suite 201
Austin, TX 78759
Phone: 512-342-9777
E-mail: info@haroldwebb.com
Website: www.haroldwebb.com
The company, established in 1977, does about 20 searches across the country each year, with fees and expenses ranging from $13,000 to $35,000 per search. The searches are done by the 12 partners. Managing partner Ken Underwood is a former superintendent and at 75 one of the most veteran superintendent searchers in the country.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates Ltd.
1151 Waukegan Road
Glenview, IL 60025
Phone: 847-724-8465
E-mail: hya@enteract.com
Website: www.hyasupersearches.com
The firm, founded in 1987, does about 40 searches nationwide each year, making it one of the largest superintendent search firms. It has a professional staff of 65. Fees and expenses range from $18,500 to $55,000. The managing principal is William J. Attea, a former superintendent.

Heidrick & Struggles International
Sears Tower
233 Wacker Drive, Suite 4200
Chicago, IL 60606-6303
Phone: 312-496-1200
Website: www.heidrick.com
The global consulting firm, founded in 1953, has conducted superintendent searches for about 10 years. It has about 15 core employees doing work in the educational and nonprofit sectors and does about 50 superintendent searches each year. Fees and expenses are based on one-third of the executive’s projected first-year compensation. Nathaniel J. Sutton is managing partner of the firm’s education/nonprofit practice.

Herbert William Consulting
P.O. Box 404
Avon, CT 06001
Phone: 860-673-9616
E-mail: SuperSearch@herbertwilliam.com
Website: www.herbertwilliam.com
Herb Pandiscio, longtime Avon, Conn., superintendent, opened the search firm in 1993 following retirement. It has two full-time employees and does six to eight superintendent searches a year, mostly in New England and New York. Fees and expenses run from about $20,000 to $33,000.

Isaacson, Miller
334 Boyleston Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02116
Phone: 617-262-6500
E-mail: info@imsearch.com
Website: www.imsearch.com
The firm, founded in 1982, began doing superintendent searches in 1987. Of the 50 professional staff, 10 are dedicated to education searches. It does about five superintendent searches a year. The fee is a third of the finalist's first-year cash salary, plus expenses. Fees and expenses can range from $50,000 to $100,000. John Isaacson is the firm’s president.

J.A. Roy Associates
P.O. Box 582
Dennisport, MA 02639
Phone: 508-398-7257
E-mail: jaroyassoc@aol.com
The regional search firm was established in 1984, but Jacqueline Roy has been working on her own since the early 1990s. She does six to eight searches per year, mostly in suburban districts in the Northeast. Fees and expenses range from $35,000 to $55,000 per search.

Korn/Ferry International
1800 Century Park East, Suite 900
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: 310-552-1834
Website: www.kornferry.com
Several years ago, the education practice of this large international firm, founded in 1968, was doing about 10 superintendent searches a year. It now handles only an occasional superintendent search. A typical search costs about $75,000. The education division, led by Ira Krinsky, has five partners.

Leadership Associates
23052-H Alicia Parkway
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
Phone: 949-461-9119
E-mail: CatherineWheeler@msn.com
This firm was founded in 1996 by three former superintendents—Harry Weinberg, Frank “Jake” Abbott and Bob Trigg. It now has six partners, all former superintendents, and does 15 to 20 searches a year in California. Fees range from $20,000 to $30,000 per search. Abbott is the managing partner.

McPherson & Jacobson LLC
P.O. Box 7346
Omaha, NE 68107
Phone: 888-375-4814
E-mail: mail@macnjake.com
Website: www.macnjake.com
The firm, founded in 1991, is run by co-founder Thomas Jacobson, a professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The other co-founder, University of Nebraska professor Daniel McPherson, retired in 1996. The firm does between 25 and 30 superintendent and principal searches each year. It has 45 consultants in 14 states and conducts searches for seven state school boards associations (Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota). Fees range from $5,000 to $25,000 plus expenses.

N&P Educational Associates
5020 Neely Ave.
Guntersville, AL 35976
Phone: 256-582-8428
E-mail: hdpat54@aol.com
Established in 1999, this firm does seven to 10 searches in Alabama each year. President Harold Patterson, a former superintendent in three districts, started the regional firm after the state school boards association stopped doing searches. Fees range from $6,000 to $8,000 per search.

New England School Development Council
28 Lord Road
Marlborough, MA 01752
Phone: 508-481-9444
E-mail: nesdec@nesdec.org
Website: www.nesdec.org
This nonprofit group, established in 1942, has been doing searches since 1981 and now does about 15 each year. The firm has 11 professional staffers. Its fees and expenses range from $30,000 to $50,000 for an extensive search but can be as low as $2,000 to $10,000 for assistance on a search. The group’s 360 affiliates receive a 20 percent discount. Ed Gotgart, assistant executive director, heads up the search work.

Northwest Leadership Associates
724 Lancashire Lane
Liberty Lake, WA 99019
Phone: 509-255-6170
E-mail: dennisray@superintendentsearch.com
Website: www.superintendentsearch.com
The firm, founded in 1999, has four senior associates. It conducted 18 searches last year, mostly in Washington. Fees range from $7,500 to $25,000. Dennis Ray, a professor at Washington State University, is the owner and president.

PNR Associates
P.O. Box 765
Springfield, OR 97477
Phone: 541-747-3967
E-mail: pnrassoc@aol.com
Principal partner Paul Plath, a former superintendent, took over the firm after the retirement of his brother Karl, who had run it for many years out of his headquarters in Northbrook, Ill. He has several associates and does about six superintendent searches a year, primarily in the Northwest. Fees and expenses range from $3,000 to $30,000.

200 N. Jefferson St., Suite 100
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: 414-347-0200
E-mail: info@proactsearchinc.com
Website: www.proactsearchinc.com
The firm, founded in 1997 and reorganized in 2001, has four full-time professionals. It does 10 to 15 school administrator searches nationwide each year, about two-thirds of which are for superintendents. Search fees range from $15,000 to $40,000 and expenses from $5,000 to $10,000. Nancy R. Noeske is president and CEO.

RBL Enterprises
1300 Clay St., Suite 600
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510-622-7707
E-mail: rblenterprises@aol.com
Website: www.ruthlove.com
The firm employs 10 professional staff, including four who do searches, with help from consultants across the country. It does about five superintendent searches per year, mainly in urban districts. Fees range from $30,000 to $50,000. A former superintendent, Ruth B. Love, leads the firm, established in 1985.

Ray and Associates
Executive Plaza Building
4403 First Avenue SE, Suite 407
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-3221
Phone: 319-393-3115
E-mail: rayassoc@netins.net
Website: www.rayandassociatesonline.com
The firm has been doing school executive searches since 1975. It has a full-time staff of five and does 25 to 30 superintendent searches a year. Fees and expenses range from about $10,000 to more than $35,000. The firm’s president is Gary L. Ray and its executive director is William L. Newman.

Richard Lerer Educational Consulting Services
57 Clarewood Drive
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
Phone: 914-478-7700
E-mail: lererecs@aol.com
Richard Lerer is the sole proprietor of this firm, although he uses consultants for searches. The firm was established in 1994, but Lerer did searches for 16 years previously for a regional Board of Cooperative Educational Services. His firm does three to five searches each year, mostly in the metropolitan New York area, with fees averaging $18,000 and expenses averaging $8,000 to $10,000.

Sockwell & Associates
227 W. Trade St., Suite 1930
Charlotte, NC 28202
Phone: 704-372-1865
E-mail: sjernigan@sockwell.com
Website: www.sockwell.com
This firm, established in 1982, has 11 professional staff and does about 60 executive searches a year, mostly for foundations and educational institutions. About six of those are for school superintendents. Expenses and fees range from $5,000 to $20,000. The managing partner is Ed Sockwell. Senior partner Susan Jernigan is in charge of education searches.

Superior Search Systems
716 Beryl Drive
Kent, OH 44240
Phone: 330-677-0408
E-mail: mkonnert@kent.edu
Former superintendent William Konnert established this firm in 1998 after doing searches for the Ohio School Boards Association. Konnert also taught education courses at Kent State University until retiring from that job last year. His firm has done two to three searches a year in Ohio. Fees and expenses range from $10,000 to $45,000 per search.

TD and Associates
6818 Old 28th St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: 616-977-9980
E-mail: terredavis@aol.com
The firm, founded in 1991, does about 12 searches a year nationwide. Fees and expenses average about $12,500 per search. Terre Davis is the founder and sole full-time professional with the firm. She spent a dozen years as a superintendent in two school districts.

Western New York Educational
Search Consultants
222 Baldy Hall
State University of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260-1000
Phone: 716-645-2932
E-mail: vcoppola@buffalo.edu
The nonprofit organization, founded in 1966, employs 1½ professional staffers. It does about five searches per year, mainly in New York. Fees and expenses range from $8,000 to $15,000 per search. The organization also does staff development, efficiency studies and merger studies for school districts. Vince Coppola, a former superintendent, is the executive director.

Wilson Riles and Associates
1140 Chargene Way
Sacramento, CA 95822
Phone: 916-448-0600
E-mail: priles@wredu.com
Website: www.wredu.com
Firm President Phillip Riles does about two superintendent searches a year in California. His father, Wilson, who founded the firm in 1984 after serving as state superintendent in California, died in 1999. Fees and expenses range from $12,000 to $25,000 per search. Riles’ firm is affiliated with RBL Enterprises in Oakland.