The Omaha school board on Monday chose a different consulting firm to lead its new superintendent search than the one that led to the abortive hiring of Nancy Sebring.
Proact Search of Wilmette, Ill., was chosen by an 11-0 vote to help find a replacement for John Mackiel, who will retire as Omaha Public Schools superintendent at the end of August.
The company was one of two firms the board interviewed last November to lead its first search, but it lost out to Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, also based in Illinois.
That search resulted in the hiring of Sebring, then superintendent of the Des Moines Public Schools. She resigned from the Omaha job last month after sexually explicit emails sent by her from her workplace account became public.
“We decided we wanted some fresh eyes on this,” said Freddie Gray, board president.
Three firms applied for the job this time — Proact, Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha.
McPherson & Jacobson was the only firm that applied this time but didn't last fall.
OPS officials said Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates didn't have to reapply to lead the search. Based on its previous contract with the district, the firm was obligated to conduct another search for the district at no fee.
The Hazard firm advertises that it waives the consulting fee for a new search if the superintendent leaves the position within a year of starting the job.
The board met in closed session for about 70 minutes to discuss six items, including the superintendent search and the three proposals submitted by the search firms, which were due last Friday.
In its application, Proact executives said they sympathized with the OPS board and its current situation.
“We understand the importance of a smooth, surprise-free search and know these past few weeks have been a trying one for the board, district and greater Omaha community,” officials wrote.
The firm listed a fee of $8,750, excluding expenses. McPherson & Jacobson submitted a bid of $16,500, also excluding expenses. Ray & Associates estimated its base fee at $25,000.
“They were really wanting to do this search,” Gray said of Proact.
OPS paid Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates $29,500 for the last search. The district's total cost was $48,130, which included candidates' travel expenses.
Meanwhile, the board still is searching for an interim superintendent to lead the district during the search for a permanent superintendent.
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