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Akron School Board lands on search firm to find next superintendent

 Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.

The Akron Board of Education Monday night voted to select a search firm to help the school district find a new superintendent.

The board, after hearing proposals from multiple search firms, chose Ray & Associates, a company based out of Iowa that is currently helping Columbus City Schools search for its next superintendent. An Akron Public Schools spokesperson said the board of education hopes to have its next superintendent in place by Aug. 1.

The vote came after objections from Steve Millard, president and CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, who asked the board in a public comment to delay the search until the board gets new leadership.

Millard noted there will be three vacancies on the board in November. Board member N.J. Akbar recently left to focus on a new job, while current board President Derrick Hall and board member Valerie McKitrick’s terms are also up in November.

Choosing now gravely risks non-aligned purpose and potential poor working relationships and bad results,” Millard said. “We cannot risk the instability of losing more top professional leaders.”

Millard was referencing former Akron Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack, who had a strained relationship with the board and left the district last month after only a year and a half on the job. Millard and other local leaders have previously criticized the board for its treatment of Fowler-Mack.

Millard also said the district is in a tough spot to find the best talent if it searches for a CEO now because some of Ohio’s other big school districts – Cleveland, Columbus, and Olentangy – all began searches earlier than Akron.

The board members did not respond directly to Millard’s concerns.

Mike Collins, president of Ray & Associates, noted earlier in the meeting that the firm has Ohio connections, with Collins living in Westerville and Liz Kirby, superintendent of Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District, being the firm's newest associate.

Collins said the firm prides itself on placing more women and people of color into superintendent positions than any other in America, with about 40% of the superintendents placed being one or the other.

Prior to the vote, Akron Board of Education President Derrick Hall said he appreciated that statistic, and he and other board members noted they also liked that Ray & Associates was currently helping Columbus find its superintendent.

The search firm in its proposal – provided by the district by public records request - suggested the search would cost the district an estimated $30,000 base cost.

In other news, Wednesday is the last day for Akron Public Schools district residents to apply to become an Akron Board of Education member. Residents who are interested can apply online by going to the district’s website.

Corrected: April 25, 2023 at 11:10 AM EDT
The Akron Board of Education voted to select which search firm it would use, but did not vote to hire the firm as was originally reported initially in this story.
Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.