Headhunting firms searching for next Providence fire chief, school superintendent

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Elorza administration has brought in two out-of-state search firms to help the city find its next fire chief and superintendent of schools.

Public Safety Solutions, Inc., a Maryland-based company, will be paid $25,000 to collect resumes for the vacant top job in the fire department and Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) will earn $26,500 to search for a new head of schools, according to Emily Crowell, a spokesperson for the city.

The fire chief’s position has been open since Chief Clarence A. Cunha retired in July, weeks before the administration reorganized the fire department to require firefighters to go from working an average of 42 hours per week on four platoons to an average of 56 hours on three platoons. (Cunha announced his retirement long before the overhaul was considered.)

The city initially named Asst. Chief Scott Mello to replace Cunha on an interim basis, but Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare demoted Mello when he hired former Chief George Farrell to help manage the fire department in November. Because Farrell already receives a pension from the city, he can only keep his current job for 75 full-days or 150 half-days in a calendar year.

At a City Council Finance Committee meeting earlier this month, Pare told council members he expects to begin reviewing resumes by the end of April. He said the city is not considering any internal candidates for the position.

Public Safety Solutions, Inc. was founded by Leslie D. Adams, who rose to deputy chief during his 30-year career with Montgomery County, Maryland, Department of Fire and Rescue Services. According to a biography published on the firm’s website, Adams has worked as a lead consultant on more than 150 municipal public safety projects in 40 states.

On the school side, the city hopes to announce its pick for superintendent by the end of March, according to School Board President Nicholas Hemond.

Hemond, who also serves as co-chair of the 28-member search committee, said the final deadline for applications is March 11.

Interim Supt. Christopher Maher is widely considered the favorite to be named the permanent head of schools, but Hemond said the committee has “cast a wide net” with its search. He said Maher has made it clear Providence is his first choice.

Maher was named interim head of schools for the 2015-16 school year after Supt. Dr. Susan Lusi abruptly resigned her post at the end of the last school year.

HYA bills itself as the country’s largest education executive search firm, having worked with more 1,000 school districts over the last 35 years.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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