AAPS superintendent search: Site visits account for 27 percent of expenses
The Ann Arbor Public Schools spent $16,279 in its search process for incoming Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift, according to documents obtained by AnnArbor.com.
About 27 percent, or $4,462 total, was spent on the two-day trips Board of Education Trustees Andy Thomas and Susan Baskett took to each of the two final superintendent candidates’ districts.
Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com file photo
“The reports back from the visiting trustees to the Board were very positive for both candidates, which added confidence, credibility and proper due diligence to the ultimate decision-making,” said school board President Deb Mexicotte in an email. “It also allowed the Board to immediately consider our second candidate when our first candidate declined. So I think $4,500 against what we hope will be a long-term employment contract with a successful district and educational leader seems an appropriate use of our time and money.”
The Board of Education did not set a budget for the superintendent search, Mexicotte said.
AAPS has become fairly familiar with searching for superintendents, as this summer’s search marks the fourth time in 11 years that the district has changed superintendents.
This summer, the district spent $13,501 less than it did during its 2011 search for former Superintendent Patricia Green, when the price tag was $29,780.
However, the district paid out $14,000 in consultant fees to Ray & Associates in 2011—a fee AAPS avoided this year because Green resigned from her position within a two-year time frame the consultant included in its contract.
The following is the breakdown of how AAPS spent $16,279 on the superintendent search:
- Candidate expenses (hotel nights, transportation, meals for three finalists): $6,801. Per candidate: Richard Faidley: $1,060; Brian Osborne: $3,271; Jeanice Kerr Swift: $2,469
- Advertising: $3,346
- Site visits (transportation, lodging, meals): $4,462.31
- Miscellaneous (hearing impaired interpreter, meal charges, interview food): $1,669
- Download a PDF of the complete itemized list compiled by AnnArbor.com
Comparably, here’s how AAPS spent $29,780 in the 2011 superintendent search:
- Candidate expenses (hotel nights, transportation, meals): $7,838
- Consultant services: $14,000
- Copying: $148
- Mailing: $110
- Advertising: $5,685
- Interview space and food: $1,997
In 2011, the district had intended to conduct site visits to its final two candidates but an unexpected snowstorm canceled the trip.
“When we started this new search, we heard loud and clear from many members of the public that they had been very disappointed that there was no site visit at the end of the last search and they felt it was absolutely essential that we do it this time,” Thomas said.
After the school board had narrowed its field of candidates from the six it interviewed to two, site visits were arranged on a tight two-day schedule July 11 and 12.
Thomas and Baskett flew from Detroit to Newark, N.J. late Wednesday night for a day full of interviews Thursday in candidate Brian Osborne’s district. Osborne was offered the position with AAPS first before he declined due to relocation concerns.
Thomas and Baskett finished their interviews about 4 p.m. Thursday and caught a flight to Denver and then Colorado Springs, where Swift served as the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District 11.
Friday the two trustees spoke with individuals from Swift’s district until 2:30 p.m. and departed for Detroit afterward. The trustees spent a total of about nine hours in each district.
“I think that this provided a depth of understanding of the candidates that we would not have gotten otherwise,” Thomas said. “One of the purposes of the site visit is that when you go there, you’re looking to confirm things that the candidates said. It’s my feeling that if either of the two candidates had skeletons in the closet we would have found them.”
During each of the site visits, Baskett and Thomas spoke with a range of individuals that they requested the candidates set up interviews with, including students, school board members, parents, principals, teachers, union representatives, community leaders and district leaders. Baskett said she made sure to contact other references on her own as well.
Thomas said the site visits didn’t change his opinion of either of the two candidates, but reaffirmed for him that they were both very solid options.
“My understanding at the end of it that we really couldn’t go wrong with either of the two candidates,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he personally preferred Osborne as a candidate because he was already serving as a superintendent, but did not see Swift as a second-best candidate.
Following the trip, Thomas and Baskett prepared a written report on their findings that they shared with the school board.
Baskett said she found the site visits to be of tremendous value because she was able to see firsthand how each of the candidates worked in their own districts.
In Colorado Springs, Baskett said she was able to see how Swift was managing alternative education programs—a point that Swift had brought up while interviewing with the district.
Swift’s first day as superintendent of AAPS is Tuesday. Her first meeting with teachers will be that morning at an 8:30 welcome-back event at Pioneer High School.