/ Modified may 7, 2013 10:26 a.m.

Search Firm May Mean Outside Hires at TUSD, PCC

Internal candidates often bypassed by consultants, expert says

The Tucson education community is recruiting for candidates to fill two top leadership positions at the same time, and the search committees should look for someone who can make changes, says a leadership expert.

Attracting two people at the same time, in the search for a new superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District and a new chancellor at Pima Community College, should not be a problem in itself, said Art Padilla, a former vice president at the University of North Carolina and a professor in the Eller College of Management.

Art Padilla portrait Art Padilla, professor, Eller College of Management, University of Arizona.

The two positions are different, he said, so it's not a matter of attracting two people to the same job, but getting a qualified person in a position to make changes.

"The larger issue is, looking forward, with all the turmoil you've had with boards and budget cuts and so on, who really is going to apply for those jobs? That's where the attention should be focused," Padilla said.

Both educational institutions are important, and they both need to consider how they are governed, Padilla said.

TUSD has big challenges with its budget, the elimination of Mexican American Studies courses and desegregation order. Pima's challenges are "more focused," Padilla said.

Though the college is on academic probation with the Higher Learning Commission, Padilla said problems can be overcome with new leadership, while some of TUSD's issues will remain even with a new superintendent.

Governmental agencies are turning to search firms frequently, Padilla said. While those firms can find candidates and vet them, they are too often treated as the alternative to a thorough search process conducted by a committee of employees of the institution, he said.

"The onus should be on the search committee," he said. "If you're going to serve on a search committee, you should agree to spend the time to actually do the search."

Padilla said 80 percent of people hired in private companies are promoted internally, but in public higher education, 20 percent of people hired to top positions come from within the organization.

"Part of this is due to the increased use of search firms," he said. "If you pay a search firm $300,000 and you end up hiring the guy sitting right next to you, people are going to start asking, why did we bring in a search firm?"

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