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updated: 9/11/2013 4:31 PM

Dist. 204 weighing 2 superintendent search firms

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As leaders of a district serving 29,000 students in four communities, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board members know they need to find the right leader to take over when Superintendent Kathy Birkett retires at the end of this school year.

So one night after hearing from parents and teachers concerned about high temperatures inside unair-conditioned schools, board members sat down to interview two search firms in the running to win the job of finding Birkett's successor.

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Board President Lori Price said the group has narrowed the field from seven firms that responded to a request for proposals and now is considering McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, of Omaha, Neb.; and Ray and Associates, Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"We as a board wanted somebody with a national reach," Price said. "For a district this size, the board felt that was going to be a plus."

In a two-hour public interview Tuesday night -- which Price said was not attended by any members of the public -- board members asked why they should choose an out-of-state firm, how many searches each company would be conducting simultaneously, who would be sent to work with District 204 and what kind of candidate each firm would suggest based on its knowledge of the district.

Base fees for both firms are in the ballpark of $25,000, but Price said the district likely will incur extra costs for travel if qualified candidates come from out of the area.

The board plans to choose either McPherson & Jacobson or Ray and Associates and bring forward a contract for approval at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23 at Crouse Education Center, 780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora.

Price said next steps then will include seeking public input and developing a candidate profile of the characteristics district stakeholders would like to see in the next superintendent.

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