Sequim School Board picks superintendent search firm

Human Capital Enterprises also overseeing administrator picks in PT, Chimacum

SEQUIM — The Sequim School Board has approved seeking a contract with Human Capital Enterprises to lead the search of a superintendent for the 2021-22 school year.

The school board unanimously approved seeking the contract Feb. 1.

The district will replace Robert Clark, who resigned Jan. 15 after the district investigated a complaint against him. The district has not said what the complaint was.

Jane Pryne, former Port Angeles School District superintendent, is serving as Sequim’s interim superintendent through June 30.

Led by founder Hank Harris, Human Capital Enterprises is now 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,” said Sequim school board member Jim Stoffer.

Stoffer and fellow board member Eric Pickens said the firm’s strong commitment to finding a diverse pool of candidates was a reason it stood out over 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 the district 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,” Sequim board member Larry Jeffryes said.

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

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

Sequim board member Brian Kuh said the 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, 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 will kick off with the next board meeting on Monday and could conclude as early as May 1.

Semifinalist interviews are planned on March 31 or April 1. Interviews with finalists are expected the week of April 22.

May 1 is the target date for the announcement of the board’s choice.

“The outcome is to find an extraordinary leader for Sequim,” Harris told board members 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 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 be conducted 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 diversity in a pool of candidates 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.’ ”

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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