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EPISD selects superintendent search firm. Here’s what to expect in the process

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The search for the El Paso Independent School District’s next superintendent is officially underway.

On Tuesday, the EPISD Board of Trustees selected Texas Association of School Boards’ Executive Search Services to lead the search for Juan Cabrera’s replacement.

Vince Sheffield

EPISD has been without a permanent superintendent since Cabrera resigned in November. Vince Sheffield has been serving as interim.

TASB’s Executive Search Services was one of three firms trustees evaluated Tuesday, which included Walsh Gallegos Treviño Russo & Kyle P.C., a school law firm in Austin, and Florida-based Greenwood/Asher & Associates. The cost of hiring Executive Search Services was not immediately available.

TASB has conducted more Texas superintendent searches than any other firm, Executive Search Services Director Butch Felkner said.

It will kick off the process by meeting with trustees to establish a timeline. Many trustees have said they’d like to make a hire before the start of the new school year, something Felkner said is ideal.

“The closer you get to next year’s school starting, folks are getting interested in, ‘hey, am I going to interview for a new position, or am I going to be planning on starting in my school,’” he said. “We don’t want them to be torn between staying home or maybe looking for a new opportunity.”

The search process typically takes a few months, which includes the 21-day waiting period between when trustees name a lone finalist and offer that person a contract.

Once trustees establish a timeframe, Executive Search Services will hold public meetings — either in-person or virtual — to garner feedback about what the community is looking for in the next superintendent. It will also solicit community feedback via an online survey posted on EPISD’s website, which will be available in English and Spanish.

Felkner and his team plan to meet with teachers, administrators and individual trustees as well.

Together, trustees and the firm will use this feedback to craft a job profile before opening the application window. It will be up to trustees to determine how wide of a search they want to conduct.

The community feedback window is the most public part of the search, Felkner said. 

Trustees typically do not release the names of applicants they select for first and second round interviews. This allows candidates to apply without tipping off their employer, Felkner said.

“The reason we do that is because we want the best quality folks,” he said. “Sometimes if folks know that their names are going to be released out to the public — not all the time, but most of the time — they are reluctant to apply for the job.”

Districts often publicize the number of applicants they receive and the number of finalists selected to interview, he said.

The search comes as two trustees head into May 1 elections and two are getting ready to step down. Trustees Bob Geske and Chuck Taylor are not seeking reelection, while Josh Acevedo and Diane Dye face crowded races for their seats.

If any of the four races go into a runoff, it likely won’t be until mid-June that the new board is determined. Felkner doesn’t expect the election to derail the search.

“We will speak to the current board and we will work with them …. and we will work with the new members coming on and bring them up to speed as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Molly Smith

Molly Smith has been a reporter for the El Paso Times and The (McAllen) Monitor. She’s covered education, criminal justice and local government. A Seattle native, she’s lived in Texas since 2014, with stops in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and now El Paso. She can be reached at mksmith@elpasomatters.org or 915-247-8857.

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