The Jeffco Public Schools board of education is expected to hire executive search firm Ray and Associates, Inc., to help find its next superintendent, according to a media release.

Jeffco’s current chief, Cindy Stevenson, will retire from the district Friday.

The board heard presentations from both Ray and Associates and Proact Search Tuesday. During board discussion, Ray and Associates, an Iowa-based company, emerged the clear favorite of the board’s minority, Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper.

Board president Ken Witt shared he was inclined to hire Ray as well because of the firm’s “maturity” and 38-year experience.

Board members Julie Williams and John Newkirk raised concerns about Ray and Associate’s fee: $44,000. They said they were inclined to choose Proact Search, which would only charge the district $25,000.

Ray and Associates  have placed superintendents in Colorado before, including Colorado Spring’s District 11, Pueblo City Schools, Adams 50 and Boulder Valley.

“All we do is find leaders for American schools,” the company’s president, Gary Ray, told the board.

But not all of their searches have gone smoothly. Critics and some board members in other districts have accused Ray and Associates of withholding information during searches. Jeffco’s board asked the firm to explain some of the controversial headlines during their formal presentation. Ray stood by his record and said the boards that contracted him do too.

A formal vote is expected at a Feb. 27 board meeting, the district communications office said in a statement.

Ray and Associates, according to a timeline provided to the board, will go straight to work Feb. 28. Witt said he wants a new superintendent in place by May.

Experts on school board governance and school leadership, who spoke with Chalkbeat Colorado earlier this week, suggested Jeffco may have a difficult time finding an innovative leader to boost student performance because of rising tension between the school board’s majority and portions of the community.

Ray and Associates’ presentation

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RayandAssocaites Jeffco (PDF)

RayandAssocaites Jeffco (Text)