At a recent ceremonial signing, RFHS senior Sienna Pargiter Walker (left) accepted a scholarship to Kansas State University (a D1 school) for rowing. Meanwhile, RFHS senior Macey Peery (right) will attend California Lutheran College on a soccer scholarship. Photo by Sue Rollyson

By the end of last week, Glenn “Max” McGee, president of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA), and Valerie Pitts, HYA associate, had held 29 meetings in the Roaring Fork School District (RFSD), making good progress on completing the community engagement phase of the search for a new superintendent.

HYA, an independent education consulting firm, conducts national, statewide and regional recruiting, and “we have a good network on this side of the range,” McGee said.

With over 100 consultants nationwide, HYA prides itself on “serving clients with a local focus, but with a national reach” and “serving school systems across the nation, large and small, urban and rural.”

Community engagement, McGee explained, is “in some ways, the most important phase — engaging community voices, both in focus groups and in an online survey, available in Spanish and English. We want to find superintendent candidates that are the perfect match for RFSD communities — plural.”

HYA develops a leadership profile report by incorporating survey and community member input and matching that to desired characteristics, qualifications and experience for a candidate. HYA then distributes that leadership profile to their consultants, asking for candidate referrals. McGee said they later identify the top five to seven candidates to present for the board’s consideration.

McGee anticipates this initial round will yield 25 to 30 candidates. Why so many? He said RFSD is “in really good shape, so it’s attractive because of that. It is not a ‘turnaround’ district, where somebody will have to come in and completely reset the culture or immediately work on raising student achievement scores. It’s a solid district.”

And the other draw, of course, “It’s a beautiful location,” he said.

Phase three — the selection phase — is completed by the board. HYA provides them with a slate of five to seven candidates for the first-round interviews. The board can either move ahead with HYA’s recommended candidate slate or add or subtract candidates from it. After interviews are completed, the board will narrow the list to two or three finalists.

During this phase, McGee explained HYA’s job is “a facilitative piece.” They provide the board with some interview questions and a candidate rating rubric. “But they [the board] are the ones who decide on who to interview in the first round, who to interview in the second round and who to select.”

The fourth phase is the transition phase, which McGee said involves the board and the new superintendent. “We take all this information that we’ve gathered, and we sit down and say, ‘Here are some recommendations we have for a 100-day plan. Here are some learnings that we think you should consider for your first-year annual goals. That conversation, it’s a two or three-hour meeting with the board and superintendent. Ideally, we come out of there with a 100-day plan and a draft of first-year goals.”

One challenge candidates would be made aware of, McGee said, are the exorbitant housing prices in the Roaring Fork Valley. “We want to make sure that they understand it.”

He added that recruiting candidates in expensive districts is not unusual for his firm. “I placed a superintendent in Blaine County, Idaho, which is not unlike Roaring Fork. It includes Sun Valley and Ketchum, but also the very rural Carey, Idaho… from ridiculously highly affluent to rural poor.” They cut out real estate ads, showing them to superintendent candidates and asked applicants, ‘What’s your estimate of how much this would cost?’”

It showed, he said, which candidates “had a good idea and who was clueless. We’ll do the same thing here because if they can’t afford to live here, it’s not going to work.”

For candidates, who have spouses and families, they strongly recommend a visit to the area to “understand what it’s going to be like here.”

“How important is it for the superintendent to be bilingual? How important is it to have experience with learning English with bilingual families or with monolingual families who only speak Spanish? And that’s an important consideration. At this point, we say it is preferred but not required as a qualification.”

The online survey is available at in Spanish and English. All community members are encouraged to participate, regardless of whether they have children in RFSD schools or not.

The superintendent job posting is available on the HYA website at