Doyle Administration Building

Madison Metropolitan School District staff will enter contract negotiations with BWP and Associates to assist the district in its superintendent search.

The Madison Metropolitan School District is a step closer to starting the search for its next superintendent.

The board Monday unanimously directed staff to pursue a contract with BWP and Associates to consult with the board on its search. The firm, which according to its website has consulted on 17 other superintendent searches in Wisconsin, was one of three to interview with the board last week.

“BWP stands out mainly for the direct style of the presentation and sticking to the nuts and bolts,” said board member Savion Castro. “(I was) really impressed with the other school districts that they’ve placed superintendents in.”

The board’s ratings on the presentations and the initial responses to the district’s request for proposals indicated BWP was the favorite before the meeting. The firm’s estimated cost, at $58,200, was nearly double the other two that interviewed, however.

Board members asked staff to get more information on the cost difference, specifically the $12,500 to $14,000 estimated for travel costs. They also asked to have the contract include a guarantee of the BWP staff members who would work with the district.

The board will have a chance to give final approval of the contract, likely at its Sept. 16 meeting. Some board members wanted to allow staff to give final approval to help speed up an already tight timeline.

“We’re already going to extend our timeline,” said Kate Toews, who conducted reference checks on the three interviewing firms. “I want us to take very seriously adding weeks to the timeline because we know there’s going to be reasons that we need to do that, that we’re not going to be in control of for the next five months.”

But the board decided to give itself that final look. Board member Cris Carusi said she felt they needed to do the “due diligence” of looking at the final contract language, something Nicki Vander Meulen said she agreed with as an attorney.

“It’s just something that I’ve had drilled into me that you always have final approval before you agree to a contract just for security’s sake,” Vander Meulen said.

Toews reported BWP received “very, very positive reviews across the board” from the four districts she spoke to for references.

“Both strong on community engagement as well as the working relationship with the board,” Toews said. “The districts were very pleased with their superintendents that were placed.”

It got the same positive marks from board members in the evaluations. BWP scored higher than the other interviewing firms, McPherson and Jacobson and Hazard Young Attea Associates, in its request for proposal evaluation, demographics, communication and community engagement process and board/firm relationship. Only Hazard Young Attea Associates scored higher in the race and equity evaluation criteria on the evaluation.

The board is expecting a national search, and said BWP’s qualifications indicated it could better execute that plan.

“We need to make sure we get a good, diverse pool of candidates, geographically as well as otherwise,” Carusi said.

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