Timing is everything in search for new Glen Ellyn District 89 superintendent

Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 has hired a recruiting firm to help find a new superintendent.

Time is of the essence in the search for the next district leader, the firm's consultants say.

Departing Superintendent Emily Tammaru will take the same job in Northbrook-Glenview District 30 on July 1. Complicating matters further, three District 89 school board seats are up for election in April.

The current board has agreed to pay Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates $24,500 to handle the superintendent's search. Board members will determine the timeline for naming a permanent successor, but Jane Westerhold, a consultant with the Schaumburg-based firm, sounded a note of caution.

"If we wait too long, and you wait until a new board's elected, you may risk losing some really good candidates," Westerhold said.

Westerhold, a former superintendent of Des Plaines Elementary District 62, and Ken Arndt, a former superintendent of Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300, will lead the recruiting efforts.

Westerhold also was part of the team that conducted the last search for a District 89 superintendent, which ended with Tammaru's hiring in 2016. When she leaves this summer, Tammaru will have spent seven years at the helm.

"We think that April would be a good time for this board to make a selection," Westerhold said. "We think we could do it and do a really good job by April."

She acknowledged "a lot of boards might have concerns" about the timetable with an upcoming election.

"However, you're already at the second phase of superintendent searches," Westerhold told District 89 board members Monday. "There are a lot of searches already that started in the fall for next school year."

For comparison's sake, District 30 this past spring began a superintendent's search that led to Tammaru's selection. She will receive a starting salary of $260,000.

"It's really critical to get out there as early as possible," Westerhold said. Starting a search in April, "you'd probably be looking at doing an interim superintendent" at that point, she added.

It's an issue of supply and demand. The pool of candidates who want to be a superintendent is becoming "smaller and smaller each year," Arndt said.

If the board only wants to recruit existing superintendents, "that's going to cut your pool," Westerhold said.

Still, she called the district's top administrative post a "really attractive job." A national superintendent's conference in February will also offer a "great opportunity" to recruit candidates, Westerhold said.

"Even if we only have 10 possible applicants, all we need are good candidates to put before us," Westerhold said.

Several board members said choosing a new superintendent is one of the most important decisions they face. Tammaru's successor will become only the sixth superintendent to oversee the district since 1958.

"We should think about how we can expedite the process," said Yannick Koger, noting candidates have already been seated in other districts. "Hence, our situation," said Koger, who was appointed to the board in 2021 and will run to retain his seat in April. "Sitting and waiting doesn't seem to be the prudent action."

Five other candidates also are seeking the three available board seats: Scott Waldbusser, Jessica McGee, Kevin McGrane, Juan Peralta and incumbent Scott Pope.

The district will pay the consulting fee in three installments, with the last due upon the appointment of a new superintendent. The board also could decide to pay an additional expense for the search firm to provide a third-party background check of finalists.

The firm typically uses public forums, an online survey and focus groups with various stakeholders - teachers union members, administrators and even older students - to develop a candidate profile and find the right fit.

Tammaru was paid a $190,000 base salary in her first year as superintendent. She now receives a salary of $233,980, according to the district's administrator compensation report.

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