West Fargo superintendent search to be handled without headhunters

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WEST FARGO—The School Board here decided it will not hire an outside consultant to search for its next superintendent.

West Fargo Public Schools Superintendent David Flowers announced Dec. 6 that he will retire on June 30. Fargo Public Schools, Moorhead Public Schools and the Grand Forks School District are also searching for superintendents.

The West Fargo School Board voted unanimously on Tuesday, Dec. 19, to begin a national search using its own human resources department.

The district will start advertising for candidates in early January.

School Board members will also consider internal candidates for the position. The district has two assistant superintendents, one of which could serve as an interim candidate if a suitable hire is not found before Flowers retires.

Flowers said he knows there are some internal candidates considering applying for his job, but he declined to say who.

Board Member Allan Skramstad said an internal candidate may be better for the district because they will already know the district well.

"Dr. Flowers stepped in and we didn't need two years to train him, he used his experience," Board Member Patti Stedman said. "I don't think he skipped a beat."
Flowers was superintendent in Fargo before taking over in West Fargo.

"He had the advantage of being familiar with the local area," Skramstad said.

In 2006, when Dana Diesel Wallace was hired, the district hired a consultant to help look for superintendent candidates, said Human Resources Director Robin Hill. The firm was hired in January and asked for applications by the end of March.
Hill said the external process seemed to stretch on. The process cost the district about $20,000 for the consultants.

When Flowers was hired in 2010, the district handled the hiring process on its own. It began on Jan. 21, 2010, with a March 30 deadline set for applications.

"It was too late that year relative to the candidates," Flowers said Tuesday. "It made things very difficult for the district I came from. The district had to start a search process very late in the year and that can discourage some candidates."

The search process cost the district about $5,000, which was mostly advertising costs.

"We were a little more nimble than we would have been with a search firm," Hill said.

While the board did not set a deadline for applicants, Hill said a late March deadline for applicants may be too late with three other area school districts looking for a superintendent.

Flowers was hired as West Fargo superintendent in 2010. He has been an educator for 45 years, including 16 years combined as superintendent in Fargo and West Fargo. He was named North Dakota Superintendent of the Year in 2013.

West Fargo is the fastest-growing school district in the state. A community task force is now studying a possible bond referendum that could help pay for a third high school and middle school as the district faces overcrowding at the middle school level as early as next fall.