School boards select firm for joint search

Port Townsend, Chimacum seek superintendents

The Port Townsend and Chimacum school boards have selected Hank Harris of Human Capital Enterprises to lead their joint search for superintendents for each district.

After interviewing representatives from three firms during a special meeting Tuesday, the boards conferred in executive session and emerged to vote unanimously to contract with the Palm Springs, Calif.,-based consulting firm.

“Hank Harris was noted by members to have great intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm and the ability to envision how two distinctly different neighboring districts might work together to identify the key talent necessary to advance teaching and learning in our respective communities,” Chimacum School Board Chair Kristina Mayer said in an email Wednesday.

The board also interviewed Northwest Leadership Associates of Liberty Lake, Wash., and McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha, Neb.

Harris, who is the sole proprietor of Human Capital Enterprises, started his firm in 2011 after working as a teacher, principal and central office leader in Washington, Oregon and California.

The boards were impressed with Harris’ human resources perspective, his board-consultant partnership approach and his “call to be thoughtful and creative” in leading the atypical joint search, Mayer said.

“When I was a middle school principal, I discovered that the part I loved most was the part around talent, the part around what we call human resources, but really the work of finding great people,” Harris told members of the two boards over a Zoom conference call.

Harris worked in classrooms and administrative offices in the Portland-Vancouver metro area during the 1990s, during which time he got his Certificate of School Leadership from the University of Washington.

When he returned to Oregon from a stint as a middle school principal at a school district outside Los Angeles, he went into human resources, first for a district in Canby, Ore., and then for Portland Public Schools.

“After a couple of years in the big district, I thought I wanted to try my hand at being a little bit entrepreneurial,” he said.

Harris has worked as a search consultant for many school districts in Washington and Oregon, as well as a few outside the Pacific Northwest.

In his proposal, Harris claims 90 percent of superintendents hired at districts in Washington and Oregon as a result of searches he’s led remain in their positions today.

However, he said this joint search represents something new for all involved.

“I think we have to recognize that we are preparing for something that we haven’t — any of us, I think — experienced,” he said. “I think it will require a high level of collegiality among the two boards.”

That’s exactly what the two school boards are aspiring to, Mayer said.

“We want to see a high level of collaboration and respect for everyone involved as a norm,” Mayer said. “We’re breaking new ground and Mr. Harris’s adaptive leadership will make a difference.”

Harris also said he sees himself as a partner with the board in carrying out the search process.

“I like to partner in a way where I’m at the table and sharing thoughts, and then I back off,” he said.

In his proposed contract, Harris said the joint search will cost the two districts $33,800, not including potential travel, compared to $25,600 for Northwest Leadership Services and $22,050 for McPherson & Jacobson.

Harris said he expects he’ll be able to do most if not all of the consulting work virtually.

“I don’t necessarily favor a fully virtual search,” he said. “We all want to touch the candidate, we all want to be there in person and, maybe toward the tail end of the search, we’ll get to do that.”

The school boards’ next joint meeting, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 6, will include Harris and will focus on nailing down a timeline and planning out the search process.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by email at [email protected].

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