The Mamaroneck Board of Education announced its selection this week of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd (HYA) to help lead a nationwide search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Paul Fried, who is retiring at the end of the school year. (See: Mam’k Schools Superintendent Will Retire Next Year.)
Although Dr. Fried’s current salary is $260,901 plus benefits, finding a replacement may not be easy.
“It is definitely harder now than it was five years ago, seven years ago or ten years ago,” said Linnet Tse, president of the school board, who recalled the process the district underwent in 2005 to find Dr. Fried. “From what we’ve heard, the trend is that there are fewer people wanting to go into the ranks of public school administration – it’s become such a demanding position.” (See: 2005 Mamaroneck Schools Search for New Superintendent.)
“It will take a lot of work to get a high quality candidate, but we are confident we will get there,” said Ms. Tse.
Dr. Fried’s early announcement, required by his contract, is giving the board double the time for its search. Ms. Tse listed other advantages, including: the district’s history of achievement; its diversity and size – “not too small, not too large” – and a supportive community.
The process will involve both a nationwide search for candidates and the gathering of local input via interviews, focus groups, open meetings and questionnaires on what attributes the community is looking for in its new superintendent.
HYA: National Network, Local Experience
According to Ms. Tse, HYA was the board’s unanimous choice out of 5 firms responding to 13 requests for proposals.
“We are eager to begin our partnership with HYA, a premier school superintendent search firm,” said Ms. Tse. “Choosing a superintendent is one of the Board of Education’s most critical responsibilities, and we’re confident that HYA – with its extensive network of consultants around the country and considerable experience with Westchester districts – will help us find the right candidate to lead Mamaroneck Schools into the next decade.”
Heading the Mamaroneck search for HYA, an Illlinois-based firm, are two senior associates Debbie Raizes and Dr. Bruce Dennis. Both live in Westchester and have years of personal and professional experience with Westchester schools. Debbie Raizes has participated in over 50 superintendent searches, including 11 in the area. She grew up in Larchmont, graduating from Mamaroneck High School, and was president of Scarsdale’s PT Council and a member of the Scarsdale School Board before joining HYA 12 years ago. Bruce Dennis, recently completed superintendent searches in Croton and Eastchester. He spent over three decades in school leadership positions, including twelve as superintendent in Bedford, before retiring in 2004.
Asked to comment on the current climate for superintendent searches, Dr. Dennis noted “it has become a sellers’ market.” A search in this area “typically elicits 30 to 50 candidates,” he said, whereas “twenty years ago you might have gotten 200.”
The nature of school administration has changed, he said. The environment has become more acrimonious; the job has become more confrontational and, in a difficult economic climate, there are heightened concerns about school funding. “Fewer people are drawn to the work, even as compensation has gone up,” he said. In addition, candidates are increasingly reluctant to move.
Nevertheless, the consultants are optimistic.
Timing is in Mamaroneck’s favor, indicated Dr. Dennis. “At the moment, there aren’t a lot of districts looking for a superintendent – it’s still early.”
“Mamaroneck is primed to attract the highest quality candidates for this position,” said Ms. Raizes. “We look forward to partnering with the district to ensure a successful conclusion,”
Ms. Raizes and Dr. Dennis will be at the next board meeting, on October 20, to answer questions from members of the community.