Amid concerns about whether Sunnyside's Manuel Isquierdo was properly vetted for a job in San Antonio, the search firm that is now charged with finding TUSD's next leader worked to alleviate the district's fears.
PROACT Search agreed to a contract that would require it to either conduct a second search for free if the first one - for various reasons - does not work out, or to refund Tucson Unified School District's money entirely if it fails to provide relevant background information on a candidate for superintendent.
The firm came under scrutiny for its role in recruiting Isquierdo to lead the San Antonio Independent School District. While Isquierdo was named the lone finalist for the job, he withdrew his candidacy last week following a media firestorm about his personal and financial missteps, some of which the board claimed not to have been aware of. The San Antonio district fired the firm Monday, the San Antonio News-Express reported.
Without going into specifics, PROACT CEO Gary Solomon explained to TUSD's governing board Tuesday night that there was one piece of information that was being further researched when Isquierdo withdrew. He said the firm was doing its due diligence during a 21-day wait period that occurs in Texas between the time a finalist is named and a hire is made. The San Antonio board chose to have the background checked only on the lone finalist, he added.
Solomon said that in TUSD's process, the company will conduct a deeper, earlier background check on the top eight to 12 candidates who will eventually be narrowed to three finalists.
The background check will include validation of credentials, employment history, reference contacts, literature searches, consumer credit and criminal background investigations, public records searches including court and county recorder documents, driver's license checks and social security traces, so the board can see "the good, the bad and the ugly on every candidate," Solomon said.
Among other reassurances provided by the firm:
• An additional search at no cost if the chosen candidate decides not to be employed by the district or if the board decides it wants to see additional candidates.
• An additional search at no cost, apart from travel and advertising expenses, if the new superintendent departs from the TUSD position within one year.
TUSD board members expressed satisfaction with the steps that would be taken. "It doesn't mean something can't happen, but my concerns on that are considerably assuaged," said member Mark Stegeman.
Starting Monday, PROACT will begin recruiting applicants locally, regionally and nationally to replace outgoing Superintendent John Pedicone.
The exact cost of the PROACT search has yet to be finalized, but it is not to exceed $30,000.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea email@example.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea