New Beginnings network puts CEO search on hold, begins process to hire search firm

The New Beginnings charter network has suspended its search for a new CEO — six weeks before the current CEO’s last day.

Members of the search committee said at a recent meeting that they lacked confidence in their process. Their worries about a technical glitch and potential communication error led them to recommend to the full board a suspension of the effort.

A board member not on the search committee, who appeared surprised by the recommendation, said they should still forge ahead, opening the application window for another week or two. He ended up being the lone vote against suspending the search, which passed 5-1.

CEO Sametta Brown has led the four-school network since the fall of 2012. Her last day is June 30. She announced her resignation in January.

At a board meeting last week, member Shelia Danzey said some electronic applicants received error messages and some paper applications arrived after the group’s deadline. She said she was worried about subjectivity.

After Danzey made a motion to suspend the search, appoint an interim CEO and hire a search firm, member Jay Ginsberg questioned Danzey’s reasoning.

“My impression, from what I was told, was there was a potential that someone may have attempted to apply and their application was not received,” he said. “Where is the issue of subjectivity?”

Danzey said late applications came in from the network’s public relations and marketing consultant, and board members were also receiving phone calls about the process.

Ginsberg asked how many applications the school had received, and the search committee members hesitated on presenting the number. Danzey did then say she thought 19 electronic and 9 paper applications were received. Applicants were supposed to apply both ways. She couldn’t confirm the number after the meeting.

“There were too many hands in the process,” Danzey said. “To avoid all of that, we thought to take ourselves out of it, so that people will understand that we are trying to be as objective as possible.”

Ginsberg pressed, saying he was much more worried about delaying the search further.

“Why not accept ones done properly and then reopen [the search] for short period of time?” Ginsberg asked.

But Danzey and fellow committee member Val Marshall didn’t like the idea. They said they were worried about applicants who may have been discouraged by the error message and the perception reopening the troubled search could create.

“My opinion is, I really don’t care about potential repercussions,” Ginsberg said.

If there are qualified applicants who applied, the network should review them, he said.

“And that’s why I’m going to vote no.”

The board voted to suspend the search, to have board Chairwoman Leslie Bouie begin a process to find an interim CEO, and to hire a professional search firm.

Bouie said initial estimates for a search firm were between $30,000 and $35,000.

New Beginnings operates Gentilly Terrace, Pierre A. Capdau and Medard Nelson elementaries, and Lake Area New Tech Early College High School.

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