Nevada Joint Union high school district hires consultant for supe search |

Nevada Joint Union high school district hires consultant for supe search

The high school district on Monday selected a consulting firm to help search for a new superintendent, opting to spend north of $15,000 rather than use the County Superintendent of Schools’ services for about $4,000.

In December, Louise Bennicoff Johnson, who was hired by the Nevada Joint Union High School District in 2013, announced her intention to retire, although she will stay on until the end of July.

Only two candidates made presentations to trustees at a special board meeting after the district issued a request for proposals: McPherson & Jacobson, a Nebraska-based firm, and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.

County Superintendent Scott Lay noted his office has provided this service to several other school districts over the last eight years, including the search that ended in Johnson’s hire. Lay touted the county office’s knowledge of the district and the community, local access to the search team and a very reasonable cost to the district.

The county office’s proposal would have cost the high school district $3,000-$4,000; it included advertising the position, screening applicants, determining the structure of interview committees and, potentially, assistance with contract negotiations.

Lay, who was at a conference, made his presentation to the board by phone. He told trustees his office would take on the superintendent search as part of the services it wants to provide local school districts.

He noted that as a relatively new hire, he had initially been hesitant to put together a proposal.

But, he said, “This is a service we should be providing, and we do have the capacity and the time and the staff.”

McPherson & Jacobson’s proposal came in with a substantially higher bid at $18,825 — that included nearly $6,000 in estimated expenses. Their proposal was more detailed, at 70 pages and five phases that included stakeholder input meetings, recruitment and development of interview questions, selection of applicants and establishment of performance objectives.

“We’ll try to make your job tough by giving you a number of qualified candidates,” consultant Bill Huyett told the trustees, adding that his firm typically gets 30 to 50 candidates for a post. Of those, he said, about half would be considered qualified, and he encouraged the board to interview six candidates at most.

Huyett told the board their proposed timeline of less than three months was “ambitious,” but said he thought it could be met by hustling and vetting candidates as they applied.

“It’s a small investment for a big decision,” he said.

The board of trustees agreed on a unanimous vote to hire McPherson & Jacobson, even those, like Linda Campbell, who initially were strongly against hiring an outside consultant.

Using the county superintendent of schools felt “homegrown,” said trustee Jamie Reeves, adding, “But this is just too big of a decision. … I want to ensure we are doing the right thing. I know that costs money, but we get what we pay for.”

Johnson told the board she would sign the contract and bring it back for ratification.

“We want to get them busy on the process,” she said.

Johnson said the hope is to have a new superintendent selected by April,

“Other districts are already recruiting,” she said. “What happens is, your first round of candidates are going to get picked off. I wanted you to have time to get out ahead of the curve.”

Contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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