Princeton school board hires search firm to identify superintendent candidates

A contract for $32,900 has been awarded to an Illinois-based consultant to help find a permanent superintendent of schools for the Princeton Public Schools.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education awarded the contract to School Exec Connect at its July 28 meeting. The Oak Park, Illinois-based firm will conduct a nationwide search to find a replacement for former Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who retired June 30.

School board member Betsey Baglio said School Exec Connect brings decades of experience with public school superintendent searches. Kevin O’Mara, the firm’s president, will work closely with the Princeton school board, she said.

“Kevin will lead us in preparing a candidate profile and engage focus groups,” Baglio said.

The candidate profile sets the characteristics and qualities that the school board is seeking in its next superintendent of schools. Focus groups will play a role in helping to provide feedback.

The search firm understands that the school board is seeking to launch a national search to identify a diverse group of candidates, Baglio said. The board is looking for an innovative leader to help it to sustain the district’s mission.

After reviewing the applications, School Exec Connect will present two slates of candidates to the school board – a slate of seven or eight semi-finalists, and then a final list of three candidates. The school board’s goal is to have a new superintendent in place by July 1, 2021.

O’Mara, who spoke to the board remotely, said he was pleased that the Princeton school board has hired the firm. Since it was founded in 2004, it has conducted more than 400 searches nationwide. Women, minorities or both accounted for more than 60% of the vacancies that School Exec Connect helped to fill last year, he said.

O’Mara said he was excited to begin the search process. The firm is built on transparency and inclusivity, and will meet with a wide range of focus groups, he said. The focus groups, along with a custom survey, will help to create a profile of the ideal candidate.

O’Mara said he would work with the school district staff to create a page on the district website that will track the progress that has been made in finding a new superintendent of schools. It will “clearly” inform the public of its progress, he said.

“Princeton is a wonderful community with an outstanding school system. You will undoubtedly have many exceptional candidates from which to choose,” O’Mara said.